Why Young People Are Expected To Be At Greater Risk For Diabetes Over Time

Diabetes is a major health concern, currently affecting over 37 million Americans, or more than 11% of the population, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While anyone can be diagnosed with diabetes, certain factors make some more likely than others to develop the condition. According to WebMD, people are more likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes if a family member has the disease or if they've experienced pancreas dysfunction. Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes is associated with risk factors such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and certain ethnicities (diabetes is more common among Hispanic/Latino Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives).

Additionally, diabetes tends to affect certain age groups more than others. Type 1 begins in childhood and is noticed most often between the ages of 4 and 7 and 10 and 14 (per Mayo Clinic). Type 2 diabetes usually emerges later in life, most often between the ages of 45 and 64, according to the CDC.

However, new trends show that children may be more likely to develop either type of diabetes in the future. Here's what the research says and what's behind the shift.

Childhood and adolescent diabetes may soar by 2060

While diabetes, and in particular type 2 diabetes, may be thought of as an older adult's condition, diagnoses are expected to rise for young people, according to researchers. A new study published in the journal Diabetes Care looked at the prevalence of diabetes in Americans under the age of 20 and forecasted diabetes rates through 2060. Based on the research, the number of young people with type 1 diabetes is projected to rise by 65% and the number with type 2 diabetes could increase by an astounding 673%. The study also concluded that non-Hispanic Black Americans are the most likely to develop the condition.

As MedicalNewsToday notes, young people who are diagnosed with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing other health conditions later in life. However, lowering the rates of childhood and adolescent diabetes may also require tackling other health disparities and lifestyle factors.

For childhood type 2 diabetes specifically, obesity and "in utero exposure to maternal obesity" could be responsible for the upward trend, Dr. Jean M. Lawrence, director of the Diabetes Epidemiology Program, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, told the CDC.

Childhood obesity is a complex public health issue to unravel. But doing so may slow the rate of youth diabetes and the cascade of other health conditions that often follow.