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Study Identifies Causes, Rates Of Death Among Young People Worldwide

“Road accidents, pregnancy and childbirth complications, suicide, violence, the AIDS virus and tuberculosis are the biggest killers of young people across the world,” according to a paper published on Friday in the journal Lancet, Reuters reports. Researchers supported by the WHO “said their study — the first to look at global death rates in those aged 10 to 24 — exposed as myth adolescents’ belief that they are stronger and fitter than other age groups,” according to Reuters. Most of the deaths were preventable, and 97 percent were in low- and middle-income countries (Kelland, 9/10). 

According to Agence France-Press, the findings are based on “data from the 2.6 million deaths that occurred among the world’s population of 1.8 billion aged between 10 and 24 in 2004.” Overall traffic “accidents accounted for 10 percent of the deaths; suicide 6.3 percent; violence 6.0 percent; lower-tract respiratory infections and TB 11 percent and AIDS 5.5 percent” (9/10).

Among girls and women, maternal mortality was a leading cause of mortality, accounting for 15 percent of deaths, Reuters reports. Road accidents were the top cause of death among adolescent males at 14 percent. 

The researches said their findings indicate that “the current focus on AIDS and other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis in this age group, while important, was ‘an insufficient response,’” Reuters writes. George Patton of the Center for Adolescent Health and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, who led the study, said, “No longer can politicians and those making policy say ‘young people are healthy. We don’t need to worry’. They do die” (9/10).

Daisy Mafubelu, WHO’s assistant director-general for family and community health, said, “It is clear from these findings that considerable investment is needed – not only from the health sector, but also from sectors including education, welfare, transport and justice – to improve access to information and services, and help young people avoid risky behaviours that can lead to death,” according to U.N. News Centre (9/10).

A statement from the WHO outlines several recommendations to “promote safe behaviours, improve health and prevent deaths among young people” (9/11). A Reuters factbox highlights key findings from the study (Kelland [2], 9/10). A Lancet Comment accompanies the study (Blum, 9/12).