Young adults who suffer from severe mental health problems are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, research suggests.
Scientists from King’s College London analysed whether the association of severe mental illness with type 2 diabetes varies by ethnicity and age.
A team led by Dr Jayati Das-Munshi examined more than 588,000 people from GP practices in London.
Type 2 diabetes was found in 7.6 per cent of people without severe mental illness, while that jumped to 16 per cent in people who had severe mental illness. Age, sex and socioeconomic backgrounds were among the variables considered.
The prevelance of type 2 diabetes was 3.3 per cent in people with severe mental illness aged between 18-34 years; 14.3 per cent in those aged 35-54; and 27.5 per cent in those older than 55 years.
However, compared to people without severe mental illness, the risk of type 2 diabetes was nine per cent in people aged from 18-34 years and just one per cent in both the 35-54 and 55+ age categories.
There was a greater likelihood of major mental health problems among people from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who had type 2 diabetes.
The researchers concluded: “The relative risk of type 2 diabetes is elevated in younger populations. Most associations persisted despite adjustment for anti-psychotic prescriptions. Ethnic minority groups had a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the presence of severe mental illness.
“Future research and policy, particularly with respect to screening and clinical care for type 2 diabetes in populations with severe mental illness, should take these findings into account.”
The research could have implications for type 2 diabetes screening programmes, with the authors suggesting: “These findings potentially inform current discussions on screening for diabetes mellitus in severe mental illness, particularly in younger populations and in areas which are ethnically diverse”.
The study was published in the online journal Diabetic Medicine.

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