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Adolescent health, education needs unmet in many countries, study says

The researchers considered obesity, smoking, marriage, injury prevention, childbirth, education and alcohol use, among others, and say more needs to be done.

By Tauren Dyson
Adolescent health, education needs unmet in many countries, study says
Researchers say that comprehensive and integrated investment into adolescent health, growth and development is vital for the 1.8 billion adolescents around the world. Photo by rawpixel/Pixabay

March 13 (UPI) -- Researchers say the world's 1.8 billion adolescents have more challenges from disease, lack of education and general risk than previous generations -- even in the United States.

Among 12 indicators researchers used to examine adolescent health in 195 countries, they report in the study published Tuesday in Lancet that from 1990 and 2016 obesity has doubled among young people around the world between ages 10 and 24 -- suggesting that one in five adolescents around the world obese.

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The researchers also considered smoking status, marriage, injury prevention, childbirth, education and alcohol use, among others. They say the study's results suggest more needs to be done to help young people be healthy.

"The study demonstrates both success and failure in adolescent health," John Santelli, a researcher at Population Columbia University and author on the study, said in a news release. "Health, education, and employment systems have not been able to keep up with shifting adolescent needs and demographic change."

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For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016, as well as the International Labor Organization, household surveys and the Barro-Lee education dataset.

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The number of youth women who aren't employed, or who haven't received education or training for work, is three times that of men around the world. While youth in the United States are graduating at a high rate, the number who don't receive employment or training is far greater than in other countries.

"While there have been great improvements in adolescent health in some countries, the greatest population growth has been in countries where adolescents experience the largest disease burden," said Peter Azzopardi, co-head of Adolescent Health and study lead author.

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In the U.S., 34 percent of males binge drink compared to only 13 percent of females, the study says. About 9 percent of young boys and men in America smoked, while just 7 percent of young girls and women have taken up the habit.

However, the overall number of young people who smoke fell by 20 percent since 1990.

The researchers say advances in technology and other factors are responsible for the overall poor health outcomes around the world.

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"Social and digital media, changing diets, urbanization, armed conflict and migration are some of the forces now shaping adolescent health growth and development, and the world is not keeping up," said George C. Patton, a researcher at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

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"With a huge rise in the numbers of adolescents growing up in poor countries, the global challenges in adolescent health are now greater than 25 years ago. In low-income countries, young people make up around 30 percent of the population but receive less than two percent of the world's health investments."

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