UK Diabetes Cases Double in 20 Years

Peter Russell

February 27, 2018

The number of people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years, a new analysis reveals.

There are now almost 3.7 million people with the condition – an increase of nearly 10,000 since last year, according to the charity Diabetes UK.

The 'Hidden Million' Cases

It is estimated that almost 1 million people have type 2 diabetes but have not been diagnosed. Putting these 2 figures together means there could be 4.6 million people with diabetes in the UK.

Between 85% and 90% of people diagnosed have type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin they have does not work properly. The remainder have type 1 diabetes in which the body is unable to produce any insulin.

Obesity and Diabetes

While type 1 diabetes is not preventable, experts say 3 in 5 cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed if people adopt healthier lifestyles. According to Diabetes UK, an estimated 12.3 million people in the UK are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with obesity the leading cause.

It says 59% of women and 68% of men are overweight or obese.

Also, 22% of children are overweight or obese in their first year of primary school in England, rising to 34% by the time they leave primary education.

Call for Tighter Controls On Junk Food

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, says in a statement: "Diabetes is the fastest growing health crisis of our time; and the fact that diagnoses have doubled in just 20 years should give all of us serious pause for thought.

"Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are serious conditions that can lead to devastating complications such as amputation, blindness, kidney disease, stroke and heart disease if people don’t receive a timely diagnosis and begin receiving the right care."

The charity is calling on the government to introduce tighter restrictions on junk food advertising aimed at children and to prevent supermarkets discounting unhealthy foods.

"We want the Government to recognise the seriousness of the growing diabetes crisis, take action to help those at increased risk, and help us turn the tables on this devastating condition."

Regional Variations

The charity's analysis found wide differences in prevalence of diabetes across the UK.

Bradford in West Yorkshire has 10.4% of the population with a diagnosis of diabetes.

Conversely, Richmond in London has the lowest incidence, with 3.6%.

The national average is currently 6.6%.

Diabetes UK