There has been an "extremely rapid rise" in adults in England being on the cusp of having diabetes with those from poorer backgrounds at "substantial risk", researchers said.
The authors of the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, wrote: "There has been a marked increase in the proportion of adults in England with pre-diabetes.
"The socio-economically deprived are at substantial risk. In the absence of concerted and effective efforts to reduce risk, the number of people with diabetes is likely to increase steeply in coming years."
They added: "This rapid rise in such a short period of time is particularly disturbing because it suggests that large changes on a population level can occur in a relatively short period of time.
"If there is no coordinated response to the rise in pre-diabetes, an increase in numbers of people with diabetes will ensue, with consequent increase in health expenditure, morbidity and cardiovascular mortality."
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