Community Health & Environment

Six Adolescent Health Problem Areas

by Mary Wright, health educator for North End Waterfront Health

A new goal for the Healthy People 2020 Initiative is Adolescent Health. This goal will help to make the transition from childhood to adulthood healthier and safer. Adolescents and young adults from ages 10-24 make up 21 percent of the US population. This is a time in a young person’s life when they will begin to establish healthy behaviors and make lifestyle choices that will affect their health in later years. This is generally a healthy time of life but several public health problems may start or peak during these years.

The areas of concern are:

Substance use and abuse including alcohol and smoking: Although illicit drug use has declined among youth; non medical use of prescription and over the counter medication is high. The most commonly used illicit drug is marijuana. Alcohol is used more than tobacco or illicit drugs combined. Alcohol use and binge drinking are a major public health issue for youth.

Noise-induced hearing loss: This can lead to difficulty with communication and learning, pain, or ringing in the ears and an inability to hear warning signals.

STDs and unplanned pregnancies: 3 in 10 girls get pregnant by the age of 20. Teen mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely to live in poverty.

Mental health issues: Every year 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 9-17 experience symptoms of mental health problems that can cause impairment.

Homelessness: 1/3 of the US homeless population is youth. 50 percent of these youth drop out of school and begin to use drugs as a means of coping. Most of the homeless teens are runaways.

Accidental death or injury: This is the #1 cause of death between the ages of 1-44. Most often these deaths are due to motor vehicle accidents, homicide, or suicide.