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Diabetes Continues To Rise Among American Youth

Scientists demonstrated that rates of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes continue to increase in people under the age of 20 in the United States, with higher rates of increase among racial/ethnic minority youth. Diabetes is a common chronic disease and results in increased risk for serious complications of the heart, kidneys, and eyes among others. Efforts to understand the burden of this disease among different populations are essential to development of targeted public health efforts to help people at risk for or diagnosed with diabetes. The SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, a joint effort supported by NIDDK and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was established in 2000 to produce data on the scope of and trends in the disease. This research continues to highlight important and concerning information.

In this report, SEARCH researchers compared the rates of development (incidence) of type 1 and type 2 diabetes from 2002 to 2015 to determine whether the annual rates were changing. For type 1 diabetes, the scientists determined an overall rate of increase of 1.9 percent per year. They observed the steepest increases among racial/ethnic minority populations: Asian and Pacific Islanders (4.4 percent per year), Hispanics (4.0 percent per year), and blacks (2.7 percent per year). In contrast, incidence among whites rose 0.7 percent per year, and an increase was not observed among American Indians.

Among youth with type 2 diabetes, the annual rate of increase in incidence was determined to be 4.8 percent per year. Again, the researchers observed the highest increases among racial/ethnic minority populations: Asian and Pacific Islanders (7.7 percent), Hispanics (6.5 percent), blacks (6.0 percent), and American Indians (3.7 percent). These trends are worrisome as research supported by NIDDK has demonstrated that type 2 diabetes is more difficult to treat in youth than adults as youth may not respond as well to medications used in adults, and that many youth with type 2 diabetes develop complications early in their lives. These data highlight the continued need for research to prevent and treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Divers J, Mayer-Davis EJ, Lawrence JM,…Wagenknecht LE. Trends in incidence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among youths – selected counties and Indian reservations, United States, 2002-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 69: 161-165, 2020.

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