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The Rising Diabetes Trend of in the UK: Stats, Causes, and Solution (2023)

Written by: Content Team



Time to read 8 min

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world, and the numbers show it’s also the third deadliest one worldwide.

The rising diabetes trend in the UK underlines a strong need for better care and education, particularly for people at higher risk of developing this condition.

In this guide, we’ll break down diabetes statistics in the UK and present some of the major risk factors everyone should know about.

Diabetes Prevalence in the UK

Syringe and stethoscope
Syringe and stethoscope

The British Diabetic Association (also known as Diabetes UK) reveals in a 2023 analysis that more than five million people are living with this condition in the country.

Based on their analysis, there are currently around 4.3 million people diagnosed with this chronic disease, 90% of whom have type 2 diabetes. Diagnosis for type 1 and other forms of diabetes remains lower, estimated at around 8% and 2%, respectively.

Data from the NHS supports this claim. In 2022, the institution estimated the diabetes prevalence at 7.25%, while data from 2023 shows the number of people with diabetes grew slightly to around 7.45%. This means there are roughly 180,000 new diabetes diagnoses in the country, based on a review of 91.8% of health practices in the UK.

Unfortunately, the official diagnosis registers only paint a partial picture of the state of diabetes in the UK.

Hidden Diabetes: The Dangers of Prediabetes

Up to a point, diabetes is a silent condition. Without proper education and a proactive approach to health, many people can live with the condition for years until the more severe symptoms develop.

Diabetes UK estimates that there are currently 850,000 people with undiagnosed diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation also estimates that of all people with the condition, around 50% aren’t aware they have it.

There are two possible explanations for this:

  • No Symptoms With Prediabetes: The condition that precedes type 2 diabetes, known as impaired glucose tolerance or prediabetes, occurs when blood sugar levels are slightly elevated. While this increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you’ll not experience any symptoms at this stage, meaning you’ll remain unaware of your increased risk of developing this chronic condition.
  • Ignoring the Diabetes Symptoms: Undiagnosed diabetes often occurs because people don’t realise that some recurring signs could indicate they have a condition. Symptoms such as frequent urination, fatigue, or weight loss can be easily explained or brushed off, which delays diagnosis until the condition worsens.

World Diabetes Prevalence

Diabetes is on the rise everywhere in the world. The International Diabetes Federation reports that over 500 million people have diabetes worldwide, and the number is expected to increase by 49% by 2045.

Similar to the UK, around 90% of people diagnosed have type 2 diabetes, which has a stronger environmental and lifestyle link. It also explains why an overwhelming majority of people living with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries.

What’s Increasing the Diabetes Prevalence?

It’s crucial to note that the growing trend of UK and global diabetes refers specifically to type 2 diabetes.

The causes of type 1 diabetes and other less common forms of the condition are unknown and almost impossible to predict. Genetics may play a key role in this sense, but medical professionals still don’t know why some people develop this disease.

While type 2 diabetes can also be influenced by genetics, there are many more factors at play, making this condition a lot more dependent on societal changes.

One review analysed the factors that could potentially explain the growing rate of diabetes in New Brunswick, Canada. The province saw diabetes prevalence increase by 120% between 2001 and 2014, but the prevalence of the following factors also increased in the area during this timeframe:

  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Immigration
  • Urbanisation
  • Prediabetes

The study also noted a decrease in fresh fruit and vegetable consumption during this time, which suggests dietary choices have also influenced the growing rates of diabetes in the area.

Data from the UK may also explain why there’s now an increased risk of developing the condition:

Main Risk Factors for Diabetes

The consensus is that the right approach can help many people avoid developing diabetes. To understand how, it’s crucial to learn about what can lead to impaired glucose tolerance:

  • Obesity: An estimated 50% of people with diabetes are obese, and 90% of them are overweight. It’s believed that being overweight promotes insulin resistance in cells, which could explain the higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Ageing: The risks of type 2 diabetes increase with age, potentially because the human body naturally becomes less sensitive to insulin, and hormone production drops after a certain age.
  • Amount of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, but it also causes insulin sensitivity, explaining why people who don’t regularly exercise have a higher chance of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
  • Gender: Though it’s not fully understood why, men are more likely to develop diabetes, according to data from the International Diabetes Federation.
  • Lifestyle: Studies have shown that both smoking and consuming higher amounts of alcohol can also increase the risk of the chronic condition.
  • Genetics: Inheriting certain genes can influence the likelihood of developing diabetes. First, it’s known that certain ethnic groups (such as Pima Indians) have an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, while children with one parent suffering from the condition have a roughly 40% chance of developing it themselves.

There’s also a correlation between hypertension and diabetes prevalence, as many people with diabetes also struggle with high blood pressure. However, the relationship between these two conditions isn’t fully understood, as researchers haven’t definitively determined which health issues cause the other.

There are also environmental risk factors to consider, though they’re less likely to cause diabetes specifically but may lead to one of the other risk factors.

For example, the higher prevalence of diabetes in low- and middle-income countries may be due to financial struggles that make it difficult to purchase fresh and healthier foods. Relying on cheaper, pre-processed ones can increase their risk of being overweight, which in turn may lead to diabetes without the proper care.

Solutions to Consider: Strategies for Protecting Your Health

People with diabetes, particularly if not managed, may deal with severe health complications such as kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, and more.

The good news is that diabetes can be successfully managed through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. However, to reduce the number of diabetes cases in the UK, it’s crucial to take a completely different approach.

Here are some steps you should consider to protect your health:

1. Better Diabetes Education

Whether you have a family history or not, understanding diabetes is the first step in protecting your health. It can assist you in monitoring your health to spot symptoms of the condition early on and empower you to make significant changes to your daily lifestyle.

The NHS provides several resources if you’re already diagnosed with diabetes. For example, you can take a healthy living online course for practical tips on managing type 2 diabetes. It also includes information about the condition, risk factors, and warning signs.

2. A Proactive Approach

The best diabetes care is to try and reduce your risk of developing it. Having a regular blood test at least once a month can effectively allow you to monitor your health since blood glucose levels will also be checked.

In some cases, your GP may recommend taking these tests more frequently, such as if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or are dealing with any of the other risk factors. Sometimes, you might not even need the full blood test, as your GP could use a glucometer and get your blood sugar levels through a simple finger prick.

These regular tests can help you have a better understanding of your blood sugar levels and potentially spot prediabetes before it turns into a chronic condition.

3. Dietary Changes

A healthier diet isn’t only a crucial part of diabetes care; it also ties into your overall health. According to the UK’s national dietary recommendations, a balanced diet should have:

  • At least five portions of vegetables and fruits daily.
  • A combination of starchy carbs (such as potatoes), dairy or their alternatives, and protein.
  • Six to eight glasses of fluid every day.
  • No more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

4. Increased Physical Activity

Regular physical activity also ties into a happy and healthy life. Apart from greatly reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes, research has shown it can lower your chances of developing dementia.

The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Their guidelines also advise reducing sitting periods as much as possible and including muscle-strengthening activities for at least two days a week.

If you’re having trouble staying active, try online workout programs or work with a personal trainer to get even more support. This way, you can receive a personalized activity plan and be fully monitored to ensure your body responds well to the workouts.

5. Lifestyle Changes

The two most important lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes are not smoking and avoiding alcohol.

Though experts don’t fully understand the mechanisms that make these two habits potentially lead to diabetes, there’s a strong correlation. Smokers are 30%–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while excessive alcohol consumption can reduce insulin sensitivity.

If you can’t quit by yourself, the NHS offers several resources that can help. There are “stop smoking” local services you can access for free, which can also help you begin low-cost medical treatments, such as nicotine replacement therapy.

Regarding alcohol consumption, if you have difficulty quitting, you can call Drinkline, the national helpline, at 0300 123 1110 to receive more support.

Wrapping Up

Proactive blood testing, improved diets, and lifestyle changes are some of the most important things anyone can do to potentially prevent a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

While these methods are somewhat accessible to everyone, the growing trend of diabetes in the UK underlines the clear need for better national efforts to increase awareness and help people protect their health.

If you’re already living with diabetes and are insulin-dependent, InsuJet can help you migrate to a needle-free and more comfortable treatment.

Learn more about needleless insulin injections now, or get in touch with the InsuJet team to learn more.

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