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Shock warning issued after alarming acceleration of type 2 diabetes cases in under-40s

  • Campaign from Diabetes UK and Tesco aims to help 1 million people understand their risk of type 2 diabetes and get support to prevent or delay the condition
  • Registered cases of type 2 in under-40s up 23% in five years, new analysis reveals
  • The partners warn cases in under-40s could top 200,000 in five years

A leading charity partnership is urging more people to check their risk of type 2 diabetes through a free online tool as shocking new figures reveal an alarming acceleration of diagnoses in younger age groups across the UK.

Analysis of NHS data carried out by long-standing partners Diabetes UK and Tesco has shown that cases of type 2 diabetes – historically associated with older people – are now rising at a faster rate among those under 40 than in those over 40. With registered cases of type 2 in this age group up 23% in just five years, the charity predicts the number of people in the UK aged between 18 and 39 living with a diagnosis of the condition could hit 200,000 by 2027.

It comes as new research commissioned by Diabetes UK and Tesco reveals that people under 40 are generally unaware of many of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, or the devastating complications the condition can lead to.

The research also sheds light on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. More than half of people (57%) said they had deprioritised their health as a direct result of the current crisis, with nearly a quarter (23%) saying they had avoided or put off medical checks.

The UK-wide survey of people aged between 18 and 39 also found:

  • A worrying 68% didn’t know how to check if they were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) either didn’t know or weren’t sure what the symptoms of type 2 diabetes were, raising fears cases could go undiagnosed.
  • Few realised that amputations (35%), strokes (30%) and depression (26%) were possible complications of type 2 diabetes.

In response, Diabetes UK and Tesco are launching a campaign to drive a million people to better understand their individual risk of type 2 diabetes by using Diabetes UK’s free online ‘Know Your Risk’ tool, or by visiting their local Tesco pharmacy. Anyone who completes an assessment using the tool will be directed to free advice and information on the help and support available to manage their risk.

The campaign comes ahead of World Diabetes Day on 14th November. In addition to launching an online risk assessment and in-store support at Tesco pharmacies, Tesco has also produced a series of healthy and budget-friendly recipes, which are available through the Tesco Real Food website. This is on top of Tesco’s existing commitments to make healthy food more accessible for its customers. Last year, Tesco committed to increase sales of healthy food to 65% by 2025 and make products healthier through reformulation.

Shannon Ball, 26, is from Halifax and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 16. She said:

“I know how overwhelming a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be for a younger person – I’ve lived through it – and I also know how difficult it can be to know where to go for support or advice if you’re worried about your health. That’s why I want to help as many people as possible understand their risk of type 2 diabetes and find the support to act.

“I’m proof that with the right advice and support around you, it’s possible to feel more in control of your health. I hope this campaign shows people who are worried about their risk of type 2 diabetes that the help is there and gives them the confidence to go out and get it.”

Chris Askew OBE is Chief Executive at Diabetes UK. He said:

“This trend of rapidly-increasing early-onset type 2 diabetes is incredibly troubling. It marks a shift from what we’ve seen historically and should be taken as a serious warning to policymakers and our NHS.

“If you’re under 40, you’re not immune to type 2 diabetes. It is vital that you check your risk now and that individuals, no matter what their age or background, are given the opportunity to access support to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.

“We’re immensely grateful to Tesco for their support with this important campaign and hope it leads to huge numbers of under 40s making that essential first step and checking their risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Jason Tarry is CEO, UK & ROI at Tesco. He said:

“Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common health conditions we face in the UK, but the reality is that many cases could be prevented or delayed. And we know that a healthy diet is one of the ways to reduce your risk.

“In these tough times, we want to make it easier for families to enjoy an exciting, healthy, budget-friendly diet, so that even when pressed for time and money, eating healthily never feels out of reach. With 373 Tesco pharmacies across the country, serving half a million people a week, our community pharmacists can also provide expert support and advice. As part of a long running partnership with Diabetes UK we’re urging people to do the Know Your Risk check either online or at your local Tesco pharmacy.

“Next time you’re in-store, visit the pharmacy and have a quick chat to one of our pharmacists or try out one of the healthy and budget friendly recipes we’ve created. Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes is doable and affordable, with the right support, and a few simple changes can make a big difference.”

While type 2 diabetes is often stigmatised as a condition that people bring on themselves, the risk factors are multiple and complex, and include genetics, family history and ethnicity, as well as living with obesity or overweight, among other factors.

Social deprivation is also an issue. Factors such as income, education, housing, access to healthy food, as well as poorer access to healthcare, have been shown to be strongly linked to an increased risk of developing several health conditions – including obesity and type 2 diabetes. As a result, people who are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes are all-too-often less likely to be able to benefit from support to manage it.

Type 2 diabetes has until recently been quite rare in those aged under 40, so many people – including healthcare professionals – don’t always recognise the symptoms. While numbers of under 40s with type 2 diabetes remain a small proportion of total cases, the condition is known to have more severe and acute consequences in people under 40 and, without the right treatment and support, it can lead to serious complications that include kidney failure and heart disease.

Most people over 18 are eligible to use the free Know Your Risk tool (See notes to editors for exceptions). The tool can be found at: www.riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/c/tesco

To find your nearest Tesco Pharmacy visit: www.tesco.com or take an online assessment at: www.tesco.com/pharmacy.

ENDS

Media Contacts:

For more information contact David Triggs in the Diabetes UK Media Team at david.triggs@diabetes.org.uk or on 07711 176 028.

Alternatively, contact James French at Tesco on james.french2@tesco.com / 07841192377 or tescohealth@teneo.com

Notes to Editors

Background to data analysis:

The number of people under 40 registered with type 2 diabetes in the UK (148,000) has increased by 23% in five years, compared to a 17% rise in all registrations.

Diabetes UK estimates that, if nothing were to change and the current trajectory of type 2 diabetes cases among under 40s was seen over the coming years in the UK, there could be 200,000 people under 40 diagnosed with the condition by 2027.

NDA data for England and Wales reports type 2 and ‘other’ forms of diabetes together – so the data reported here includes “other” diabetes. The category “Other” forms of diabetes contains cases registered without a diabetes specification, as well as rarer types of diabetes, which account for a small number of cases.

Many of these ‘other’ cases of diabetes will be type 2 diabetes and their inclusion in this analysis is not believed to have an impact on the findings or trends observed.

About the Censuswide Polling

The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,137 18-39 year olds (excluding those currently living with any type of diabetes).

The data was collected between 29.09.2022 – 30.09.2022.

Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

About Diabetes UK

1.   Diabetes UK’s aim is to create a world where diabetes can do no harm. Diabetes is the most devastating and fastest growing health crisis of our time, affecting more people than any other serious health condition in the UK - more than dementia and cancer combined. There is currently no known cure for any type of diabetes. With the right treatment, knowledge and support people living with diabetes can lead a long, full and healthy life. For more information about diabetes and the charity’s work, visit www.diabetes.org.uk  

2.   Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. If not managed well, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of preventable sight loss in people of working age in the UK and is a major cause of lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke. 

3.   People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. About 8 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable. It’s the most common type of diabetes in children and young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses – taken either by injections or via an insulin pump. It is also recommended to follow a healthy diet and take regular physical activity.

4.   People with type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly (known as insulin resistance). Around 90 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2. They might get type 2 diabetes because of their family history, age and ethnic background puts them at increased risk. They are also more likely to get type 2 diabetes if they are overweight. It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before they realise they have it. Type 2 diabetes is usually treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition, tablets and/or insulin can be required. 

5.   About 2 per cent of people have other types of diabetes. Other types include 11 different forms of monogenic diabetes, cystic fibrosis related diabetes and diabetes caused by rare syndromes. Certain medication such as steroids and antipsychotics, surgery or hormonal imbalances could also lead to other types of diabetes.  

 About Tesco

At Tesco we believe that affordable, healthy, sustainable food should be accessible to everyone – whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever their budget. Helping our customers to eat more healthily and sustainably is a key focus for our business and we need to make sure that tighter budgets don’t mean poorer diets and that everyone can shop in a way that’s better for them and the planet, as well as their pockets.

In July 2021, Tesco launched the ‘Let’s Talk’ initiative in more than 200 Tesco pharmacies where pharmacists and pharmacy colleagues provide specialist support and information on how to manage or reduce the risk and symptoms of type 2 diabetes, heart and circulatory diseases, and cancer. The pharmacists and pharmacy colleagues have completed training developed by Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, and The British Heart Foundation.

Community pharmacies are vital for the management of long-term conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Alongside speaking to the GP, they are also an important port of call for those worried about their risks or potential symptoms.

Tesco’s partnership with Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK is built on a simple belief – that Every Little Help can make a big difference. The partnership, established in January 2018, aims to inspire, empower, and support Tesco colleagues, customers, and their families to make healthier food choices and live healthier lives, bringing about measurable changes to the behaviours that can lower the risk of cancer, heart and circulatory diseases and type 2 diabetes.

About the Diabetes UK Know Your Risk tool:

The Know Your Risk tool was Developed by Diabetes UK, the University of Leicester, and the University Hospital of Leicester NHS Trust

The Know Your Risk tool is not a diagnostic tool. It is designed for people without a current diagnosis of diabetes and is intended to highlight a person's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years. The results are not medical advice. If you are at risk or concerned about diabetes, we advise visiting a healthcare professional for further information.

You must be 18 or over to complete this tool.

Please note: the results will not be accurate if you are pregnant, and the results will underestimate your risk if you have a history of gestational diabetes

The tool is not for people with a diagnosis of diabetes.

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