Data from Diabetes UK have shown that England and Wales had 6836 children and young adults living with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in 2016-2017. The findings come from an analysis of individuals <25 years of age treated in GP practices for the condition. This figure is alarmingly higher than that reported by the Paediatric Diabetes Units in England and Wales (715 cases), owing to the inclusion of >6000 cases treated in primary care.

T2DM takes a much more aggressive course in children and young people compared with adults, and the risk of early complications is likely to be higher. Being overweight or obese, family history and ethnicity are the risk factors for the development of T2DM in the younger population. With over a third of children in England being overweight or obese by the end of primary school, the likelihood of T2DM diagnoses in the young is expected to rise significantly in the coming years.

Diabetes UK is calling on the government to implement strong measures to tackle the obesity epidemic among children, such as restrictions on junk food advertising and supermarket price promotions on unhealthy foods. The NHS has also been urged to provide specialist supportive services to children and young adults with T2DM to help them manage their condition.