According to World Health Organization, the world has more young people than ever before – of the 7.2 billion people worldwide, over 3 billion are younger than 25 years, making up 42% of the world population.
1.2 billion of these young people are adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years.
The World Health Organization says that adolescence is a critical time of life.
It is a time when people become independent individuals, forge new relationships, develop social skills and learn new behaviours that will last the rest of their lives.
It can also be one of the most challenging periods.
It says shockingly that around 3000 adolescents die every day. That in 2016 alone, more than 1.1 million adolescents aged 10-19 lost their lives, mainly to preventable causes such as road injuries, complications of pregnancy or giving birth, or because of HIV/AIDS.
“Investing in the health and well-being of adolescents, especially adolescent girls should be a top priority for national and international policymakers. These investments are not only the right thing to do, but they also yield tremendous economic and social returns and are vital to achieving the global sustainable development agenda,” says Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA.
The UN health agency adds that many of the health challenges that young people face among them non-communicable diseases, violence, road traffic accidents are set to rise as the world continues to become more crowded, more urban, and more mobile.
Additionally increasing exposure to tobacco, drugs and alcohol via the internet and the media, and ever-increasing marketing of unhealthy products to young people, is ensuring that young people continue to be at risk of obesity or alcohol or substance abuse at a time when they are most vulnerable, and when their bodies are still in crucial phases of development.
It says coming up with prohibitive approaches like laws restricting the sale of alcohol and tobacco use do not always work without adequate family and societal support and protection.
The widespread availability of pornography coupled with a lack of adequate sex education in many countries can mean that young people are not aware of risks they may face, or understand healthy sexual behaviour.
Education (both at home and at school) is critical in teaching young people how to behave responsibly. Therefore according to WHO there is an urgent need to invest in the health of adolescents.
Self-harm is the third leading cause of deaths in 15-19-year-olds. 80% of depression begins in adolescence, but many cases go undetected and untreated.
“With over 40% of the world’s population under the age of 24 years, young people have to be part of any meaningful solution to the world’s challenges—and this is their right. Ensuring young people’s meaningful, safe and effective engagement for health and sustainable development is a matter of urgency for the Member States, WHO and partners, and young people themselves,” says Dr. Shyama Kuruvilla, in WHO’s department for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health.