Mortality and Morbidity

  • Motor vehicle crashes, homicide, and suicide, rather than infectious or chronic diseases, are the leading causes of mortality among adolescents.

  • Injuries continue to be the leading cause of mortality among adolescents; the majority of these injuries are due to motor vehicle crashes.

  • The prevalence of asthma and diabetes, two common causes of chronic illness in adolescents, has increased in recent years.

  • Between 10 and 20 percent of adolescents are affected annually by mental disorders, and half of all cases of adult lifetime mental disorders start by age 14. The most common mental health disorder in adolescence is anxiety.

  • Sexually transmitted infections are the most commonly reported infectious diseases in adolescents and continue to increase in this population. Non-Hispanic black adolescents have higher rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea than any other racial or ethnic group.

  • The most common oral health problem in adolescence is dental caries. Non-Hispanic black adolescents have a higher prevalence of untreated dental caries than non-Hispanic white adolescents.

Behavior and Health

  • Behavior that is unhealthful and/or risky, rather than infectious or chronic diseases, is the leading cause of morbidity among adolescents.

  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs and carrying a weapon are adolescent behaviors that pose serious risk.

  • Pregnancy rates among adolescents aged 13–19 have decreased since 1990; declines have been seen among all racial and ethnic groups, although the rate of pregnancy among Hispanic adolescents has been decreasing less dramatically. Pregnancy rates among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adolescents continue to be twice as high as those among non-Hispanic white adolescents.

  • The percentage of overweight adolescents has more than tripled since 1980, with more than 17 percent of adolescents aged 12–19 being considered overweight.

  • Certain subpopulations of adolescents, especially those who are in the juvenile justice or foster care system, are at significantly increased risk of health and mental disorders.

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