Adolescent and young adult health in the United States in the past decade: little improvement and young adults remain worse off than adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2014 Jul;55(1):3-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 May 10.


Adolescence and young adulthood are unique developmental periods that present opportunities and challenges for improving health. Health at this age can affect health throughout the lifespan. This review has two aims: (1) to examine trends in key indicators in outcomes, behaviors, and health care over the past decade for U.S. adolescents and young adults; and (2) to compare U.S. adolescents and young adults on these indicators. The review also assesses sociodemographic differences in trends and current indicators. Guided by our aims, previous reviews, and national priorities, the present review identified 21 sources of nationally representative data to examine trends in 53 areas and comparisons of adolescents and young adults in 42 areas. Most health and health care indicators have changed little over the past decade. Encouraging exceptions were found for adolescents and young adults in unintentional injury, assault, and tobacco use, and, for adolescents, in sexual/reproductive health. Trends in violence and chronic disease and related behaviors were mixed. Review of current indicators demonstrates that young adulthood continues to entail greater risk and worse outcomes than adolescence. Young adults fared worse on about two-thirds of the indicators examined. Differences among sociodemographic subgroups persisted for both trends and current indicators.

Keywords: Adolescents; Health status; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / trends*
  • Minority Health
  • Mortality / trends
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Suicide / trends*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / trends
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Young Adult