Diabetes Prevalence Balloons Among US Youth

May 27, 2014

Increases were significant in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study, possibly leading to further increases in the next generation.

The prevalence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) increased significantly between 2001 and 2009, according to the results of a new study. Data were gathered from more than 3 million children and adolescents from diverse geographic regions of the United States.

"The increases in prevalence are important because such youth with diabetes will enter adulthood with several years of disease duration, difficulty in treatment, an increased risk of early complications, and increased frequency of diabetes during reproductive years, which may further increase diabetes in the next generation," according to the researchers.

The study results were released early to coincide with the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting.

Led by Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD of the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study examined whether the overall prevalence of type 1 and type 2 DM among US youth has changed in recent years and whether it changed by sex, age, and race/ethnicity.

Despite concern about an “epidemic,” data on trends regarding DM have been limited. “Understanding changes in prevalence according to population subgroups is important to inform clinicians about care that will be needed for the pediatric population living with diabetes and may provide direction for other studies designed to determine the causes of the observed changes,” the researchers state.

The analysis included cases of physician-diagnosed type 1 DM in youth aged 0 through 19 years and type 2 DM in youth aged 10 through 19 years in 2001 and 2009. The study population came from 5 centers located in California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington state, as well as data from selected American Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.

The prevalence of type 1 DM in 2001 among a population of 3.3 million was 1.48 per 1000. This increased to 1.93 per 1000 among 3.4 million youth in 2009. After adjustment, this indicated an increase of 21% over the 8-year period.

The greatest prevalence increase was observed in youth aged 15 through 19 years. Increases were observed in both sexes and in white, black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific Islander youth.

"Historically, type l diabetes has been considered a disease that affects primarily white youth; however, our findings highlight the increasing burden of type l diabetes experienced by youth of minority racial/ethnic groups as well," the authors state.

The overall prevalence of type 2 DM for youth aged 10 to 19 years increased by an estimated 30.5% between 2001 and 2009 (among populations of 1.7 million and 1.8 million youth, respectively). Increases occurred in white, Hispanic, and black youth; no changes were found in Asian Pacific Islander and American Indian youth. A significant increase was seen in both sexes and all age-groups.

Further studies are required to determine the causes of these increases in prevalence, the authors noted.

The researchers reported their results in the May 7 issue of JAMA.