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Type 2 diabetes increasing fast in UK children

Type 2 diabetes increasing fast in UK children

Publication date: Friday, 15 September 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

The number of children being diagnosed with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is rising, but new cases of type 2 diabetes, has risen five-fold in about five years. New analysis of data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a primary care database of electronic health records, suggest that type 2 diabetes now accounts for up to a third of diabetes diagnoses in children.

This retrospective cohort study analysed electronic health records from 375 general practices in England. They looked for a diagnosis of type 1 or 2 diabetes from data of 369,362 children aged two to 15 who had body mass index (BMI) measurements recorded between 1994 and 2013.

The authors also conducted a case-control study, matching each child with diabetes with up to four randomly selected control children of the same sex, age and general practice. They used this data to estimate the risks of developing diabetes for different BMI ranges.

Key results from the study reveal an alarming increase in diabetes in children (Table).

  • About a third of cases of diabetes in the cohort (n=654) were type 2 diabetes vs 1318 cases of type 1 diabetes.
  • The incidence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children under 15 increased between 1994 and 2013:
    • Type 1 diabetes: from 38.2 per 100,000 persons per year in the 1994-98 period (95% confidence interval [CI] 30.4 to 47.2) to 52.1 (95% CI 47.6 to 56.9) in 2009-13.
    • Type 2 diabetes: from 6.4 per 100,000 persons per year in 1994-98 (95% CI 3.5 to 10.7) to 33.2 (95% CI 29.7 to 37.1) in 2009-13.
  • Obese children were about four times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those with a normal BMI: odds ratio 3.7 (95% CI 3.1 to 4.6).
  • The incidence of type 1 diabetes showed no association with BMI categories.

Table. Key results from the study.


This study suggests that as many as a third of cases of diabetes in children under the age of 15 could now have type 2 diabetes, whereas in the 1990s this was rare. The study also confirms the strong link between obesity and type 2 diabetes in children. This highlights the need to find ways of promoting healthy lifestyles and habits in childhood alongside education initiatives for families, to minimise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Abbasi A, et al. Body Mass Index and incident type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children and young adults: a retrospective cohort study. J Endocr Soc 2017;(5):524-37.

Topics covered:
Category: Evidence in Practice
Edition: Volume 2 Number 8 PCCJ Online 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

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