The onset of type 2 diabetes is most common in people aged 45–64. It usually appears after the age of 45 but can occur at any age.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90–95% of the adult diagnoses of diabetes in the United States.

Individual diagnoses vary too much to pinpoint an exact age of onset for type 2 diabetes. However, there is evidence that the likelihood of developing the condition increases drastically after age 45.

Read on to learn more about age and diabetes onset.

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The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends annual diabetes screening tests for people aged 35 and older.

However, the development of the condition depends on too many other factors to accurately predict on an individual basis.

A broad mix of health and lifestyle factors can influence the condition’s progression. Many people have diabetes for years without knowing it. This causes a wide variation between the age of onset and age at diagnosis.

Some estimates claim that 1 in 5 people with diabetes do not know they have it. Also, many national surveys and studies do not distinguish between rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults aged 45–64 receive the majority of new diabetes diagnoses in the U.S.

While it might not be possible to define a set age for the onset of type 2 diabetes, a person’s age greatly increases the risk of developing the condition.

According to the 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, about 13% of U.S. adults aged 18 and older had diabetes in 2015.

Elsewhere, a 2016 meta-analysis found that the rates of type 2 diabetes were up to 7 times higher in Chinese adults aged 55–74 than in 20- to 34-year-olds.

The ADA reports that 29.2% of those over 65 years old in the U.S. may have diabetes, whether diagnosed or not.

Common factors that can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:

These factors impact blood glucose, either directly or indirectly, over time.

Learn more about the risk factors for all types of diabetes here.

Differences in the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and the age of diagnosis may also depend on sex, race, or ethnic background.

Sex differences

Studies suggest that women have higher rates of diabetes during youth and adolescence than men. However, men have higher rates of diabetes diagnosis in middle adulthood.

Rates of diabetes in late adulthood are similar.

Race and ethnicity

Black American adults are almost twice as likely as white American adults to develop type 2 diabetes. Higher obesity rates in African American adults are a likely factor in this disparity.

However, many other factors may contribute to Black American adults having a higher risk of diabetes, including:

  • less access to fresh produce
  • economic barriers to healthcare and treatment
  • less access to health education

Learn more about diabetes in African Americans here.

Current rates of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. among people of various races or ethnic backgrounds are as follows:

  • 14.5% of Native American and Alaskan Native people
  • 12.1% of non-Hispanic Black people
  • 11.8% of Hispanic people
  • 9.5% of Asian American people
  • 7.4% of non-Hispanic white people

Learn more about diabetes in People of Color here.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes, such as increased thirst, hunger, and fatigue, do not often present until a person’s blood sugar levels are extremely high. Taking steps to prevent diabetes is vital, as the condition may advance in the time before a person becomes aware of it.

Ways to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:

  • doing light-to-moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, including daily activity
  • maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet
  • cutting down on consumption of simple sugars, excess sugars, and fats
  • monitoring carbohydrate intake
  • eating smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals
  • losing 5–7% of one’s total body weight
  • monitoring and regulating blood glucose levels
  • attempting to manage stress to reduce levels of the hormone cortisol
  • staying hydrated
  • increasing fiber intake
  • maintaining a regular sleep schedule to reduce the release of stress hormones

As the body ages, nutrition requirements change and the risk of injury increases. Staying active in older age can help delay the onset of age-related conditions such as diabetes.

Nevertheless, people should start undergoing tests for diabetes every year once they reach age 35. If these tests show type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, people can start making adjustments sooner.

Those at greater risk of diabetes can make certain dietary choices to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. As long as they stay mindful of portion sizes and plan meals carefully, people with type 2 diabetes can still eat their favorite foods.

Age is a key factor in type 2 diabetes risk. Most people with type 2 diabetes receive a diagnosis at ages 45–64.

Sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors can also affect a person’s risk of developing the condition.

Lifestyle adjustments and medication programs can help people manage type 2 diabetes.

Below are some frequently asked questions about diabetes onset.

Can a person have diabetes from birth?

In very rare cases, a person can have diabetes from birth. Doctors refer to this as neonatal diabetes. It is the result of genetic changes.

Can I get type 2 diabetes in my 20s?

It is possible to get diabetes at any age. However, the condition is less common in people younger than 45 years of age.

Is diabetes common in 30-year-olds?

Diabetes is more common in older adults. However, 4.2% of U.S. adults aged 18–44 have diabetes. The ADA recommends annual screening for people aged 35 and older.

Does race impact diabetes onset?

Diabetes is more prevalent among people of certain races and ethnicities. In the U.S., the prevalence of diabetes in various groups is as follows:

  • 14.5% of Native American and Alaskan Native people
  • 12.1% of non-Hispanic Black people
  • 11.8% of Hispanic people
  • 9.5% of Asian American people
  • 7.4% of non-Hispanic white people

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