Morbidity and mortality among US adolescents: An overview of data and trends

Am J Public Health. 1996 Apr;86(4):513-9. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.4.513.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent*
  • Cause of Death
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morbidity / trends*
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • United States / epidemiology