People who develop type 2 diabetes before the age of 40 are at increased risk of dying young, with those from South Asian backgrounds most likely to be diagnosed early, new research has revealed.

The analysis found that if type 2 diabetes is diagnosed before the age of 40, the risk of an early death is 2.5 times greater than if the condition starts after the age of 60. It has been thought that early onset type 2 diabetes (when diagnosed under the age of 40) is a more aggressive form of the condition, but previous studies exploring this have involved relatively small cohorts.

Scientists across the UK have now analysed seven years of data from the National Diabetes Audit, and found that early onset type 2 is linked to a greater risk of early mortality.

Analysis of the data, from over 2.7 million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after 2008, also showed that people with early onset type 2 diabetes were five times more likely to be from South Asian ethnic groups, have a higher body mass index and have higher blood glucose levels at diagnosis, compared to those diagnosed over the age of 60.

One of the researchers, Dr Bob Young, said: “These important results add to the weight of evidence that Type 2 diabetes in people of working age carries the greatest health burden, and is an especially severe condition in this age group.”

Director of Research at Diabetes UK, Dr Elizabeth Robertson, said: “This in-depth analysis stresses the seriousness of Type 2 diabetes, especially when developed earlier in life. It is important these findings are taken seriously and people at risk of Type 2 diabetes are given the support they need to help them minimise the likelihood of developing the condition.

The results of the study were presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference.