Diabetes and obesity, which can lead to more serious health issues, are on the rise among young adults in the United States , according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Washington University School of Medicine studied about 13,000 people ages 20 to 44 years using data from 2009 to 2020 and found that the rates of diabetes and obesity increased from 3% to 4.1% and 32.7% to 40.9%, respectively.
The study’s authors wrote that their findings show "a high and rising burden of most cardiovascular risk factors in young U.S. adults, especially for Black, Hispanic and Mexican American individuals.” They also highlighted the need to focus on preventive measures for young people by increasing public health and clinical interventions.
Because diabetes and obesity are risk factors for heart disease, this trend suggests that young adults are facing a greater risk for heart attack, heart failure and stroke, according to the study. Early screening for younger people could mean earlier diagnosis and treatment.
"Given the high rates of diabetes complications in the U.S., identifying and mitigating risk in younger adults could have downstream implications for cardiovascular health as well as other diabetes-related illnesses, such as kidney disease, infection and cancer,” the authors wrote.
The study also looked at hypertension rates and found that Mexican-American and Latino adults experienced a significant rise in diabetes and hypertension. Among young Black adults, rates of hypertension were “more than two times higher than in all other racial and ethnic groups, with no improvement over the study period.” Hypertension raises the risk for stroke, heart failure and hypertensive kidney disease.
Researchers partly attribute the rise in diabetes and obesity among Latino and Black young adults to unhealthy diets, socioeconomic barriers to health care and structural racism and recommend ramping up the development and implementation of “community-informed, culturally appropriate public health efforts” to combat these rising statistics.