Number of Youth with Diabetes Projected to Rise Substantially by 2050

Alexandria,
November 21, 2012

If incidence rates remain the same, the number of youth with type 2 diabetes in the U.S. is projected to increase by a staggering 49 percent over the next 40 years, while the number with type 1 is expected to climb 23 percent, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the December issue of Diabetes Care. However, if incidence increases, the number of youth with type 2 could quadruple and the number with type 1 could triple, the researchers concluded, with an increasing proportion of youth with diabetes from minority populations.

Estimates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes incidence rates are based on the results of SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth, a multicenter study of childhood diabetes (www.searchfordiabetes.org).

The projected rise in type 2 diabetes highlights the dire need for better prevention strategies, wrote Robert E. Ratner, MD, FACP, FACE, the American Diabetes Association’s Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, in a commentary accompanying the study.

“If we are to avoid the catastrophic impact on our citizenry, our health care system and our economy, we must aggressively address the issue of early detection and treatment, and prevention,” Ratner wrote. “With diabetes already responsible for over 25% of the Medicare budget, the increase in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in youth … sends an alarm that the future of the U.S. health delivery system will be overwhelmed unless prevention of diabetes becomes our next major health care goal.”

The researchers emphasized that little is known about how to prevent type 1 diabetes, which most often is diagnosed during childhood, and more research is needed in this area. However, there is a great deal of research showing that increased physical activity and weight loss can significantly reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes in adults. More research is needed to determine the best and most appropriate ways to prevent type 2 diabetes in young people, they conclude.

“As these youth age, having diabetes profoundly affects their productivity, quality of life, and life expectancy and increases health care costs,” the authors concluded. “Even in childhood, the medical expenditures of youth with diabetes are approximately 6.2 times of those without diabetes. The health care system and society as a whole will need to plan and prepare for the delivery of quality health care to meet the needs of the growing number of youth with diabetes. This may need to include the training of additional health care professionals to treat and manage children and adolescents with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”

The authors also noted that the U.S. Census Bureau projects an increase in minority youth over the next several decades, leading them to conclude that by 2050, about half of those with type 1 diabetes will be from minority/ethnic groups, who are also more likely to be from lower-income families, which could affect their access to quality health care.

“Our projections indicate a serious picture of the future national diabetes burden in youth,” they concluded. “Even if the diabetes incidence remains at 2002 levels, as result of the population growth projected by the US Census, the future number of youth with diabetes is projected to increase, resulting in increased health care needs and costs. Future planning should include strategies for implementing childhood obesity prevention programs and primary prevention programs for youth at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Likewise, effective interventions for the prevention of diabetes-related complications should be available to all youth with diabetes. It remains crucial to continuously monitor diabetes trends at the population level, as well as diabetes-related complications and quality of diabetes care among youth.”

Diabetes Care, published by the American Diabetes Association, is the leading peer-reviewed journal of clinical research into one of the nation’s leading causes of death by disease. Diabetes also is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, as well as the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, and non-traumatic amputations.


The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.