Type 2 Diabetes Cases Have Nearly Doubled in American Youth Since 2001

New cases of diabetes have been on the decline in the United States in recent years, except in Americans under the age of 20. New research shows just how sharply cases of diabetes have been increasing in youth.

A study published in August in the Journal of American Medicine shows that there were nearly twice as many Americans under the age of 20 living with type 2 diabetes in 2017 than there were in 2001. In addition, the incidence of type 1 diabetes in this age group was up 45%. The increases in type 2 were especially pronounced in Black, Hispanic, and Native populations.


Jean M. Lawrence, lead author and director of the National Institute of Health’s diabetes epidemiology program, says, “More research is needed to better understand the underlying causes of the increases we’re seeing in type 1 and type 2 diabetes in U.S. youth. Increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes could be caused by rising rates of childhood obesity, in utero exposure to maternal obesity and diabetes, or increased diabetes screenings. The impact of diabetes on youth is concerning as it has the potential to negatively impact these youth as they age and could be an early indicator of the health of future generations.”

The data came from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH.

The study showed that the incidence rate of type 1 diabetes in youth under the age of 20 was up to 215 per 100,000 in 2017, compared with 148 per 100,000 in 2001. Large increases were found in those aged 5-9, 10-14, and 15-19 years, as well as in both sexes and all racial and ethnic groups. Type 1 was more common among white youth than other groups.


For type 2, the incidence rate in 2017 was 67 per 100,000, up from 34 per 100,000 in 2001. There were significant increases found in kids between the ages of 10 and 14 and between 15 and 19. Again, both sexes and all racial and ethnic groups saw increases. Type 2, however, was more common among racial minority groups than the white population. Black and Hispanic youth saw the highest increases, while the highest incidence rates were seen in Native and Black populations.

These developments are worrying for public health and raise the risk of future complications for youth diagnosed with diabetes.

Dr. Giuseppina Imperatore, chief of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, Economics, and Statistics Branch at the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, says, “Increases in diabetes are always troubling – especially in youth. Rising rates of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, which is preventable, has the potential to create a cascade of poor health outcomes. Compared to people who develop diabetes in adulthood, youth are more likely to develop diabetes complications at an earlier age and are at higher risk of premature death.”


Dr. Lawrence notes that these youth may experience issues with their kidneys, eyes, and nerves at an early age.

For tips on preventing diabetes or limiting your risk of complications if you already are living with the disease, the CDC’s website has resources that can help.

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