May 12, 2020

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in youth under age 20. Between 2002 and 2012, the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study (SEARCH) found that the incidences of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have been steadily increasing in young people in the United States. This year, SEARCH released an update in that data, collected between 2012 and 2015, which shows that this increase is continuing in five U.S. locations, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities.

The findings were recently released in an article for the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled, “Trends in Incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Among Youths — Selected Counties and Indian Reservations, United States, 2002–2015.”

Dr. Elizabeth Mayer Davis

Dr. Beth Mayer-Davis

Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and chair of the UNC Gillings School of Public Health’s nutrition department, was part of the research team that contributed to the analysis. Mayer-Davis has served as a chair and co-chair of the SEARCH study for the past 15 years.

The SEARCH study evaluated young people under the age of 20 in areas of Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina, Washington and California, as well as in selected Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico under the direction of Colorado. The incidence of Type 1 diabetes (T1D) in these groups increased at a rate of nearly 2% per year, with steeper increases among black, Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander populations as compared to white populations. The study observed a larger increase in cases of Type 2 diabetes (T2D) – nearly 5% per year – and also saw steeper increases among minorities. Cases of T1D and T2D diabetes rose most significantly among Asian and Pacific Islander youth.

While the study could not find a reason for the increase in T1D cases, the team noted that the increase in T2D cases is in parallel with the rising prevalence of obesity in young people in the U.S.

The results demonstrate ongoing trends and help to identify population groups that are at increased risk for this chronic condition.

“Because increases are happening faster in racial and ethnic minorities, attention must be paid to how best to provide care and support for the daily self-management that is required for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” Mayer-Davis noted.

Diabetes must be managed for life, which makes these findings critical for the development of strategies for prevention and treatment. In a time when some of the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting those with diabetes, effective care is more important than ever.

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