According to a new study published by the prestigious Lancet medical journal, U.S. teens lead the world in drug and alcohol abuse and are more likely than their peers in Europe to meet a violent death.
The Daily Mail is reporting on the study which found that the lack of focus on adolescent health around the world may be resulting in disturbing and dangerous trends among the world’s 1.8 billion people who are between the ages of ten and 24.
The statistics, which were revealed in two studies by Professor George Patton of the University of Melbourne in Australia and colleagues and published in The Lancet Series on Adolescent Health, found American teens to be most at risk for obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and violence.
The data revealed that 17 out of every 100,000 boys in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 19 are killed by violence. The next closest countries are Israel and Switzerland where the rate drops to a mere four in 100,000.
While the death rate among children under the age of five has declined by more than 80 percent in some countries, there has been only a marginal improvement in the adolescent mortality rate.
“Irrespective of region, most adolescent deaths are preventable and thus strongly justify worldwide action to enhance adolescent health,” Professor Patton said
U.S. teens also lead the world in other risk behaviors. For instance, 30 percent of American girls age 13 to 15 reported binge drinking within 30 days of the survey, which was more than teens in any other developed country.
U.S. teens in the 13 to 15 age group were also the most likely to be overweight, even though the study found the highest rates of exercise were found among American youth.
The U.S. scores better than most when it comes to the level of sexual activity among teens. The research found that sexual activity among 13 to 15-year-olds was highest among girls in Denmark followed by Iceland, the UK and Sweden. The lowest rates for girls was found in Israel, while Greece and Denmark had the highest rates among boys.
US rates of young teen sex fell into the average range with about 25 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls saying they had sex before the age of 15.
Researchers say longer periods of education and delays in marriage have extended the amount of time young people are exposed to the risks of adolescence. These risks include harmful alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, and sex with multiple casual partners.
“The present generation of young people will take a different path through adolescence from previous generations and will face new challenges to their health and well-being along the way,” Professor Patton said.
The problem is that some of these challenges are life threatening even into adulthood. Bad habits picked up during adolescence are contributing to an epidemic of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease.
“In view of their dynamic and challenging health profile, the contribution of adolescent health to the global burden of disease, and the important effect of adolescents and their health across the life course, adolescents should be more prominent within future global public health policies and programming.”
Professor Patton added: “For the largest generation in the world’s history, the available global profile of youth health is worrying.”
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