According to a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO), over 3,000 teens die each day from mostly preventable causes, adding up to 1.2 million deaths each year.
Most of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia. The leading causes appear to be suicide, traffic injuries, and lower respiratory infections.
The WHO assures that most of these deaths could be prevented if the patients would have had access to decent health services and support from their peers.
Thousands of teens could be saved if they had access to health care
The report is titled “Global accelerated action for the health of adolescents: Guidance to support country implementation.” It highlights the main causes of increased mortality that surface when focusing on teens aged from 10 to 19 years.
According to WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Flavia Bustreo, teens are largely ignored by national health plans. She claims that even a small investment could help secure a healthier life for future generations, allowing teens to contribute more to the development of their country of residence.
Suicide was determined to be the third cause of teen mortality in 2015, responsible for at least 67,000 deaths that year, although it is the second leading cause of death for older teenage girls. Teenagers are more likely to cause self-harm than other populations, and most of the cases are seen in Europe and South-East Asia.
Teens who suffer from mental health disorders are often left out of health care plans, either because the plan does not comprehend such illnesses or because the service is unavailable as a whole. Mental health disorders are just as severe as physiological diseases, as they may cause irreparable damages on a person’s mind and on its ability to function correctly throughout its adult life.
Another leading cause of death for adolescents is lower respiratory infections, mainly pneumonia. These conditions tend to be caused by unsanitary work environments, forcing teens to breathe toxic fumes and the like.
On the other hand, pregnancy complications are the leading cause of death for girls aged between 15 and 19 years. Lastly, traffic injuries were the primary cause of death for people between 10 and 19 years of age, resulting in an average of 115,000 in 2015.
WHO officials recommend that public health systems need to be overhauled to achieve a significant improvement in the quality of life of teenagers in low and middle-income countries. They suggest that, although responsibility lies in the public health care system, parents, families, and communities are just as important, as they tend to be the primary factors behind a positive behavior in young boys and girls.
“Adolescents have particular health needs related to their rapid physical, sexual, social and emotional development and to the specific roles that they play in societies. Treating them as old children or young adults does not work,” reads the study.
The WHO suggests that public health policies need to take into account adolescents as they will become adults in just a few years. Besides being at a critical period of their life, adolescents are an important population group, just like any other.