Warning over youth diabetes deaths
More youngsters are dying from diabetes in the UK than in other EU countries, scientists have warned.
Emerging research from the Institute of Child Health at University College London found the UK has a "high and rising" diabetes mortality rate compared with the EU among 15-to-24-year-olds from 2000 onwards.
For children aged from one to 14, however, there was a decline in mortality at a higher rate than other members of the EU.
Professor Russell Viner, who led the study, said very few young children die from diabetes and it is in older children that more serious health problems are likely to occur.
He also stressed the research did not explore the reasons why the UK is falling behind, but said he believed it was down to a combination of factors including higher levels of inequality and poverty, healthcare issues and population factors.
"This is a significant concern given that we know that diabetes control is poor," he said.
"This is going that next step and saying that death is rising."
By analysing World Health Organisation (WHO) data from 1990 to 2010, his team also found there was little change in diabetes mortality among one-to-14-year-olds in the United States, but a significant rise in diabetes mortality among 15-to-24-year-olds.
While in 1990 the UK had higher mortality than comparable EU countries among one-to-14-year-olds but not among 15-to-24-year-olds, rates have not significantly changed in the EU countries since then.
More children are being diagnosed with diabetes than ever before, and a Welsh study published earlier this month found that children with type 1 diabetes are almost five times as likely to be admitted to hospital than those without.
The latest National Paediatric Diabetes Audit revealed there were 1,000 more children suffering from diabetes reported last year while there remains significant regional disparity between the quality of care given to young sufferers in England and Wales.
It also found that children and young people living in the most deprived areas are likely to fare less well in terms of diabetes control compared to those in more affluent places while white ethnic groups achieve better control of their diabetes compared to other ethnicities.
The emerging research is due to be presented at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's (RCPCH) annual conference this week.
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "It is worrying that poor diabetes control is leading to deaths in children, however we know that in reality it is only an incredibly small number of children and young people with diabetes, aged under 24, who die.
"However, what is of concern is that only 16% of children and young people with diabetes achieve target in relation to controlling their condition in England and Wales, putting them at increased risk of developing diabetes-related complications later in life.
"Specifically in relation to type 1 diabetes, one in four children are diagnosed too late, at the stage where they collapse and need serious and urgent care in hospital. Raised awareness of the symptoms of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes in children can dramatically reduce this number.
"Improved education, greater access to technology, such as insulin pumps, and better support in schools, can all help to give children with diabetes the best possible chance of living a long and healthy life."