Current insights and emerging trends in early-onset type 2 diabetes

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2023 Oct;11(10):768-782. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(23)00225-5. Epub 2023 Sep 11.


Type 2 diabetes diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood is termed early-onset type 2 diabetes. Cases of early-onset type 2 diabetes are increasing rapidly globally, alongside rising obesity. Compared with a diagnosis later in life, an earlier-onset diagnosis carries an unexplained excess risk of microvascular complications, adverse cardiovascular outcomes, and earlier death. Women with early-onset type 2 diabetes also have a higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. The high burden of complications renders individuals with early-onset type 2 diabetes at future risk of multimorbidity and interventions to reverse these concerning trends should be a priority. Within the early-onset cohort, disease pathophysiology and interventions have been better studied in paediatric-onset (<19 years) type 2 diabetes compared to adults; however, young adults aged 19-39 years (a larger number proportionally) are not well characterised and are also invisible in the current evidence base supporting management, which is derived from trials in later-onset type 2 diabetes. Young adults with type 2 diabetes face challenges in self-management that older individuals are less likely to experience (being in education or of working age, higher diabetes distress, and possible obesity-related stigma and diabetes-related stigma). There is a major research gap as to the optimal strategies to deploy in managing type 2 diabetes in adolescents and young adults, given that current models of care appear to not work as well in this age group. In the face of manifold risk factors (obesity, female sex, social deprivation, non-White European ethnicity, and genetic risk factors) prevention strategies with tailored lifestyle interventions, where needed, are likely to have greater success, but more evidence is needed. In this Review, we draw on evidence from both adolescents and young adults to provide a contemporary update on the current insights and emerging trends in early-onset type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult