The health of young people in a global context

J Adolesc Health. 2004 Nov;35(5):402-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2003.10.007.


Purpose: To examine the chief causes and influences of morbidity and mortality among young people throughout the world.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted that included WHO's Global Burden of Disease, UNFPA's State of the Worlds' Population, Medline, Popline, Sociological Abstracts, as well as data collected from UNICEF, UNAIDS, Population Reference Bureau, and the United Nations Headquarters. Experts in the fields of substance use, suicide, and infectious diseases were also contacted for unpublished and published sources. Studies were restricted to those completed after 1985, had a sample size of at least 100, focused primarily on the age group of 10-24 years, and examined trends related to unintentional injuries, HIV/AIDS, suicide, homicide, war, maternal mortality, pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, and infectious diseases.

Results: Trends in adolescent morbidity and mortality have shifted over the past decade from predominately infectious to social etiologies. Currently, unintentional injury is the leading killer of young people in nearly every region of the world, with homicide, war, and interpersonal violence following closely behind.

Conclusions: The changes in population, migration, age of marriage, and education have had profound impact on the mortality and morbidity among adolescents. As we come to learn about the factors that influence adolescent morbidity and mortality, we begin to have a better understanding of how to improve the health of youth throughout the world.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Cause of Death*
  • Child
  • Communicable Diseases / mortality
  • Female
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morbidity*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality