WHO: 1 million adolescents a year die from preventable causes

In 2015, more than two-thirds of 10- to 19-year-olds died in low- and middle-income countries of the African and South-East Asia regions, the international agency reports.
By Amy Wallace   |   May 16, 2017 at 10:23 AM

May 16 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization reports more than 3,000 adolescents die every day or roughly 1.2 million annually from preventable causes throughout the world.

The report from the WHO showed that in 2015, 855,000 10- to 19-year-olds died in low- and middle-income countries in the African and South-East Asia regions of the world.

The leading causes of death among adolescents were traffic injuries, lower respiratory infections and suicide.

Researchers found most of the deaths were preventable with good health, education and social support services. Mental health disorders, substance use or poor nutrition also contributed to the preventable deaths when adolescents did not have access to prevention services.

"Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades," Dr. Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general with the WHO, said in a press release. "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."

The study revealed significant differences in causes of death among different age groups and genders.

Traffic injury-related deaths were the leading cause of death among 10- to 19-year-olds with older boys aged 15 to 19 at the highest risk.

Girls age 10 to 14 were at a greater risk of dying from lower respiratory infections resulting from indoor air pollution and pregnancy complications in girls age 15 to 19.

Health needs in adolescents are increased in countries with humanitarian crises and turmoil as adolescents take on adult burdens such as working, caring for siblings, marrying early or engaging in prostitution.

Suicide and self-harm were the third leading cause of adolescent death in 2015 with 67,000 deaths.

"Improving the way health systems serve adolescents is just one part of improving their health," Dr. Anthony Costello, director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health for the WHO, said. "Parents, families and communities are extremely important, as they have the greatest potential to positively influence adolescent behavior and health."

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