Objectives: This article reviews the health status of adolescents in the United States 1979 through 1994.
Methods: An extensive array of data from federal agencies, private organizations, and published literature was reviewed, analyzed, and cross-validated.
Results: Significant shifts in mortality and morbidity among America's youth have occurred over the past decade. Adolescents have recorded significant reductions in motor vehicle deaths,; alcohol, cigarette, and illicit substance use; and gonorhea and syphilis. Overall, mortality in the second decade of life has declined by 13%. However, reductions in unintentional injuries have been largely offset by increases in teenage homicide, while worsening poverty as well as risk-taking behavior continue to influence the morbidities of teenagers adversely. Violence, suicide, and teenage pregnancy continue to be overwhelming problems for young people.
Conclusions: After years of downward spiral in the health of America's youth, there have been significant improvements in morbidity and mortality. These findings refute the myth that nothing can be done.