Almost one in 10 people in the UK will have diabetes by 2030 amid alarming levels of obesity, according to a report.
About 90% of diabetes patients have type 2, a condition that is more likely to develop if people are overweight. The majority of adults in England – 68% of men and 60% of women – are now an unhealthy weight, and more than a quarter – 27% of men and 29% of women – are officially obese.
Diagnoses of diabetes have doubled in the last 15 years, and analysis by Diabetes UK reveals that 5.5 million people in the UK are likely to be living with diabetes before the end of the decade.
This will put millions of Britons at risk of “devastating complications” including heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke, amputation and blindness, the charity’s report says.
As a result, the UK faces a public health emergency unless urgent action is taken “to stop it in its tracks”, said the charity’s chief executive, Chris Askew.
Diabetes UK estimates there could be more than 87,000 hospital admissions a year for the condition by 2030 in England. This would represent an increase of 14% from 2020-21 and more than 50% higher than the figure for 2006-07.
The charity’s report is based on data from Public Health England and the Association of Public Health Observatories. Additional analysis from Diabetes UK suggests one in three UK adults – more than 17 million people – could be at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 2030.
The charity is calling for action on several fronts, including enrolling more people in the NHS diabetes prevention programme. The programme aims to help people reach a healthy weight, learn to eat better and make regular exercise a part of life.
It also wants to see access to weight loss programmes expanded and assurances that people with diabetes will get regular NHS checks to cut the risk of complications.
At the moment almost 4.1 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with either type 1 diabetes – which accounts for fewer than one in 10 cases – or type 2, which is heavily linked to obesity and can also be influenced by age, ethnic background and family history. A further 850,000 people are estimated to be living with type 2 but do not know it.
“Every diagnosis of diabetes is life-changing,” said Askew. “The relentlessness of the condition, and the ever-present fear of serious and life-altering complications, is a lifelong reality for millions of families across the UK. It’s a sobering thought then that if we don’t act today, hundreds of thousands more will face the life-changing news that they have type 2 diabetes.
“We’re at the tipping point of a public health emergency and need action today to stop it in its tracks. It doesn’t have to be this way – we know that with the right care and support, diabetes complications can be avoided and cases of type 2 diabetes can be put into remission or prevented altogether.
“We don’t want our prediction to become a reality. What we need to see is the will, grit and determination from government to halt this crisis in its tracks, and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come.”
Diabetes UK is launching a new TV campaign, This is Diabetes, featuring families across the UK living with the condition.