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Young adults may not be monitoring and managing their diabetes as well as possible, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Diabetes among young Australians, explores how young Australians (0-30 years) with diabetes are managing their condition, their use of health services, and the diabetes-related health problems they experience.

In 2010, about 31,300 young Australians with diabetes were registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme. Most (79%) had Type 1 diabetes (a lifelong autoimmune disease that requires the administration of insulin many times a day for survival). Monitoring blood glucose levels is an important part of diabetes management, particularly for those with Type 1 diabetes and on insulin.  

'The good news is that on average, enough blood glucose testing strips were bought for children with Type 1 diabetes aged 0-11 years to meet recommended daily testing levels,' said AIHW spokesperson Susana Senes.

'Similarly, people with Type 1 diabetes using an insulin pump generally purchased enough testing strips.'

But there is room for improvement. The report shows that people aged 19-24 with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes bought blood glucose test strips at lower rates than other age groups, suggesting that they are not monitoring their diabetes as well as others.

In 2009-10, there were about 15,500 diabetes-related hospitalisations among young Australians. Children aged 0-11 had the highest rate of hospitalisation for Type 1 diabetes but these were mainly for stabilising diabetes, being diagnosed with diabetes or for the fitting of an insulin pump.

People under 25 were hospitalised more often than those aged 25-30 for acute diabetes-related complications, such as ketoacidosis (a condition caused by very high blood glucose levels). Admissions for ketoacidosis have been increasing, and are often associated with non-compliance with medical treatment among those aged 12-18, and to a lesser extent in those aged 19-24.

'Although uncommon, long-term complications of diabetes are also occurring in young Australians,' Ms Senes said.

'Some young people aged 19-30 are already experiencing serious but preventable long-term complications of diabetes, including nerve damage, foot ulcers, eye and kidney disease. In 2009-10, among people with Type 1 diabetes aged 25-30, there were 58 hospitalisations for long-term complications of diabetes per 1,000 women and 32 per 1,000 men.'

Diabetes was the main cause of death of 88 people aged 0-30, and an associated cause for a further 76 between 2001 and 2007. Most of these deaths were in people aged 25-30.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 6 December 2012

Further information: Ms Susana Senes, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1171, mob. 0418 271 395

Full report: Diabetes among young Australians