The number of people under age 20 with type 2 diabetes in the US may increase nearly 675% by 2060 if trends continue, researchers say, with an increase of up to 65% in young people with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes – in which the pancreas makes little or no insulin – is more common in young people in the US, but type 2 – in which the body doesn’t use insulin the way it should – has “substantially increased” in this age group over the past two decades, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new study, published this month in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care, used data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, which is funded by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers found that if incidence rates from 2017 were to remain unchanged over the next decades, the number of young people with either type of diabetes would rise 12% from 213,000 to 239,000. However, if the incidence continues to rise as quickly as it did between 2002 and 2017, as many as 526,000 young people may have diabetes by 2060.
The researchers say young people who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaska Native are likely to have a higher burden of type 2 diabetes than White people.
The marked increase in expected type 2 diabetes rates could have several causes, including rising rates of childhood obesity and the presence of diabetes in people of childbearing age, the CDC says.
People with diabetes are at risk of complications including nerve damage, vision and hearing problems, kidney disease, heart disease and premature death. The disease may worsen more quickly in young people than in adults, requiring earlier medical care, the researchers note. This in turn could increase demand on US health care systems and result in rising health care costs.
“This new research should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. It’s vital that we focus our efforts to ensure all Americans, especially our young people, are the healthiest they can be,” Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the CDC, said in a statement.
Christopher Holliday, director of the agency’s Division of Diabetes Translation, called the findings “alarming.”
“This study’s startling projections of type 2 diabetes increases show why it is crucial to advance health equity and reduce the widespread disparities that already take a toll on people’s health,” he said in a statement.