Road accidents, suicide, pregnancy and violence among top killers of world’s youth

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Road accidents, suicide, pregnancy and violence among top killers of world’s youth

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A World Health Organisation study published in The Lancet has revealed the main causes of death for people aged 10–24. It has described the majority of these deaths as preventable and suggested solutions to the problems.

97% of the 2.6 million fatalities annually occur in low- and middle-income countries. The age group comprises 1.8 billion people, 30% of the total population. 15% of female deaths were down to “maternal mortality” which included pregnancy complications, unsafe abortions, and mutilation of genitals. Road traffic accidents accounted for 10% of deaths.

6.3% of the deaths were suicides and 6% were down to violence. Tuberculosis and similar lung infections took 10% of the lives and HIV/AIDS killed 5.5%. Most of the deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Africa and Southeast Asia were also the only places where male deaths were not above those of females, as much of the maternal mortality occurred there. The data came from 2004.

In developed countries, 32% of the deaths were down to road accidents. “There has long been an assumption that young people are healthy, fit and they don’t die,” explained the report’s lead author, Australian children’s health expert George Patton. He goes on to say “I’ve certainly heard politicians and policy-makers make statements of that kind… Some of these problems, related to emotion, are actually very prominent causes not only of death in adolescence, but health problems later in life.”

The study said safer speed limits, more use of helmets and seatbelts, and better enforcement of drunk driving law could greatly curb the road deaths. Maternal deaths and sexually transmitted disease rates could be cut by sexual education, safe abortion clinics, pregnancy support, HIV testing and treatment, and access to contraceptives.

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Violence and suicide could be reduced by education in life skills and an improved role of parents, the study found. It also sought reduction of availability of poisons, firearms, and other dangerous items. In the case of suicide, the study said more work was needed to help young people recover from acts of violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in both the short and long term. Alcohol access reduction was also requested.

The study was conducted by University College London’s Russell Viner, World Health Organization’s Krishna Bose and George Patton of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

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