Since 1990, 250 mn more adolescents at risk of diseases & violence

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Study finds more adolescents are now exposed to communicable and non communicable diseases, also violence

In the first study to track recent global changes to adolescent health, published in The Lancet, researchers estimate that, compared with 1990, an additional 250 million adolescents in 2016 faced a triple burden of infectious disease, non-communicable diseases including obesity, and injuries – including from violence.

Between 1990 and 2016, a decrease in adolescent disease burden in many countries was offset by population growth in countries with the poorest adolescent health.

The authors of the study tracked progress in 12 indicators of adolescent health in 195 countries, including risk factors such as smoking and obesity, and social issues that impact on health such as child marriage and access to secondary education. The findings highlight a slow pace of change in health, education and legal systems, leaving adolescent needs unmet.

The findings of the study are:

  • Compared with 1990, in 2016 an additional 250 million adolescents worldwide lived in multi-burden countries with the poorest adolescent health
  • Number of adolescents who are overweight or obese more than doubled between 1990 and 2016; number of adolescents with anaemia increased by 20%
  • The prevalence of child marriage between 2013-2016 was over 50% in some countries, and three times more young women than men worldwide were not in education, employment or training
  • The US stands out for poor adolescent health compared with other high-income countries

The study calls for comprehensive investments in adolescent health and for responses that extend beyond health systems, for example in education.

Given that the population of people aged 10-24 years is now the largest in history, at 1.8 billion in 2016, it is timely to focus attention on improving their chances to lead healthy and productive lives.

“Adolescence is a formative phase of life during which patterns of growth, development, and behaviour lay a foundation for health in later life and for the next generation,” says corresponding author Dr Peter Azzopardi from the Burnet Institute, Australia.