'World epidemic of poor teen health'
The health of teenagers worldwide is not up to scratch, according to a new report from the United Nations Children's Fund.
There are 1.2 billion adolescents across the globe. These teens are being targeted by mass marketing of unhealthy products such as tobacco, alcohol and junk food - the effects of which which doctors compare to an infectious disease epidemic.
Today's teens are facing new challenges, including exposure to drugs, STDs, gang violence and car accidents.
Teenagers now make up 18% of the world population and every year, 1.4 million adolescents die from road traffic injuries, complications of childbirth, suicide, violence, AIDS and other causes.
Many people have their first experiences with tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs during their teen years. This is partially due to their need to explore boundaries as they begin to develop their individuality.
However, these risky behaviours can have a negative impact on adolescent health and well-being and bring lifelong consequences. Abuse of these substances is also associated with poor mental health.
And the high risk of mental health problems among teens, if left unaddressed, can carry over and negatively affects.
For example, a major depression experienced for the first time in adolescence can persist or recur through adulthood. Suicide is often associated with mental health problems, although it also stems from difficulties within the family.
According to the report, both undernutrition and obesity or overweight are problems among teenagers in low and middle income countries.
Large proportions of teenage girls have experienced sexual violence. Meanwhile, domestic violence is common among adolescent girls who are in relationships.
Gang violence is common among teenagers, particularly boys, and adolescents with disabilities are at increased risk of violence and sexual abuse.
Some of the other findings of the study included:
• Approximately 2.2 million adolescents are living with HIV - 60% of these occur in females and most do not know their HIV status.
• Around 11% of all births worldwide, an estimated 16 million, are to girls aged 15-19. The youngest mothers are the most likely to experience complications and die of pregnancy-related causes
• Every year, an estimated 20% of adolescents experience a mental health problem, the most common are major depression or other mood disturbances.
• Suicide is among the leading causes of death for adolescents worldwide. The highest rates occur in Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.
• Thirty-one percent of the world's homicides in 2010 were in the Americas, where the rate for all ages was 15.6 per 100,000 people, more than double the world average.
The report says: "Adolescents experience intense physical, psychological, emotional and economic changes as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood.
"Risk-taking is part of adolescence, and it is the duty of society both to prevent risk and to mitigate any dangerous consequences such risk-taking is bound to have."
The report was published in the Lancet journal to coincide with the United Nations Commission on Population Development meeting this week.
[Posted: Wed 25/04/2012]