1 in 6 of the world’s population are adolescents.

WEBDESK (Dunya News)- A new report from World Health Organization  (WHO) states that over 1.2 million adolescents, over 3000 per day, die every year of causes that are largely preventable.

WHO’s report states that around 1.2 billion people, or 1 in 6 of the world’s population, are adolescents aged 10 to 19. 

Road injury tops the list as leading cause of death among 10-to 19-years-olds globally killing over 115,000 people. Second came lower respiratory infections and third self-harm.

The leading cause of death differs significantly when the regions are separated by sex, religion and age. Report narrates that two-third of deaths occur in Southeast Asia and Africa every year.

Promoting healthy behaviours during adolescence, and taking steps to better protect young people from health risks are critical for the prevention of health problems in adulthood, and for countries’ future health and ability to develop and thrive.

Main health issues include:

Early pregnancy and childbirth

The leading cause of death for 15– 19-year-old girls globally is complications from pregnancy and childbirth.

Some 11% of all births worldwide are to girls aged 15–19 years, and the vast majority of these births are in low- and middle-income countries. The UN Population Division (1) puts the global annual adolescent birth rate (2010–2015) at 46 births per 1000 girls this age – country rates range from 1 to 208 births per 1000 girls. This indicates a marked decrease since 1990. This decrease is reflected in a similar decline in maternal mortality rates among 15–19 year olds.

HIV

More than 2 million adolescents are living with HIV. Although the overall number of HIV-related deaths is down 30% since the peak in 2006 estimates suggest that HIV deaths among adolescents are rising. This increase, which has been predominantly in the WHO African Region, may reflect the fact that although more children with HIV survive into adolescence, they do not all then get the care and support they need to remain in good health and prevent transmission. In sub-Saharan Africa only 10% of young men and 15% of young women aged 15 to 24 are aware of their HIV status.

Mental health

Depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents (15–19 years). Violence, poverty, humiliation and feeling devalued can increase the risk of developing mental health problems.

Violence

Violence is a leading cause of death in older adolescent males. Interpersonal violence represents 43% of all adolescent male deaths in LMICs in the WHO Americas Region. Globally, 1 in 10 girls under the age of 20 years report experiencing sexual violence.

Alcohol and drugs

Harmful drinking among adolescents is a major concern in many countries. It reduces self-control and increases risky behaviours, such as unsafe sex or dangerous driving. It is a primary cause of injuries (including those due to road traffic accidents), violence (especially by a partner) and premature deaths. It can also lead to health problems in later life and affect life expectancy. Setting a minimum age for buying and consuming alcohol and regulating how alcoholic drinks are targeted at the younger market are among the strategies for reducing harmful drinking.

Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades," said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at the WHO, in a statement. "Relatively small investments focused on adolescents now will not only result in healthy and empowered adults who thrive and contribute positively to their communities, but it will also result in healthier future generations, yielding enormous returns."

Factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and risky sexual behavior, which can impact health throughout a person s life, also begin during adolescence and need to be taken into account, according to the report.

Malnutrition and obesity

Many boys and girls in developing countries enter adolescence undernourished, making them more vulnerable to disease and early death. At the other end of the spectrum, the number of adolescents who are overweight or obese is increasing in low, middle and high-income countries.

Tobacco use

The vast majority of people using tobacco today began doing so when they were adolescents. Prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors and increasing the price of tobacco products through higher taxes, banning tobacco advertising and ensuring smoke-free environments are crucial. Globally, at least 1 in 10 adolescents aged 13 to 15 years uses tobacco, although there are areas where this figure is much higher. Cigarette smoking seems to be decreasing among younger adolescents in some high-income countries.