The research by Professor Craig Currie, School of Medicine, published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, examined the published data describing the incidence of newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes between 1991 and 2010.
The team found a significant increase in the overall incidence of type 2 diabetes, with a marked increase among younger people aged 40 and under.
“We have known for some time that the incidence ― new cases ― and prevalence ― the total number of people ― of type 2 diabetes has been increasing in the UK,” said Professor Craig Currie who led the research.
“We also know that there has been an increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. This is thought to be dependent on many factors such as obesity, diet and family history amongst many other factors.
“By analysing routine NHS data we’ve managed to confirm this and show an increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the UK population, matched by an overall decrease in the average age of diagnosis.
“We also found that the incidence of type 2 diabetes was higher for males after the ages of 40 and slightly higher for females aged under 40,” he adds.
Irrespective of the causes, the results show that over the last twenty years, type 2 diabetes can now be considered common amongst relatively young people, which could have major implications for greater health problems in later life.
“Early onset of type 2 diabetes could result in longer disease duration and lead to an increased risk of developing health complications,” according to Professor Currie.
“This will undoubtedly place an increasing burden on healthcare resources and result in poorer quality of life. An earlier age of onset may also ultimately lead to premature death,” he adds.
The retrospective cohort study tracked those patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 1991 and 2010 using data from the UK general practice. Patients were then grouped into five-year intervals by year of diagnosis and age at diagnosis to examine trends over time.
Professor Richard Donnelly, Editor of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism said: “This is an important study which highlights the continued rise of type 2 diabetes as a major public health challenge for the UK. The results are likely to mirror similar trends in other European countries”