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Road accidents, suicide and maternal conditions are leading causes of death in young people

WHO-supported study of global mortality patterns shows 2.6 million young people die each year

News release

The first study of global patterns of death among people aged between 10-24 years of age has found that road traffic accidents, complications during pregnancy and child birth, suicide, violence, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) are the major causes of mortality. Most causes of death of young people are preventable and treatable. The study, which was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and published in The Lancet medical journal, found that 2.6 million young people are dying each year, with 97% of these deaths taking place in low- and middle-income countries.

There are more young people in the world today than ever before -- 1.8 billion, accounting for 30% of the world's population. Until now, there has been very little information available on the causes of death among young people globally and by region. This study is intended to inform the development of policies and programmes to ensure that they improve the lives, and prevent the deaths, of young people.

Daisy Mafubelu, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health, said: "Young people are transitioning from childhood to adulthood - at the threshold of becoming productive members of society - yet they often fall through the cracks. It is clear from these findings that considerable investment is needed - not only from the health sector, but also from sectors including education, welfare, transport, and justice - to improve access to information and services, and help young people avoid risky behaviours that can lead to death."

WHO recommendations

WHO recommends the following interventions to promote safe behaviours, improve health and prevent deaths among young people:

  • Road traffic accidents can be prevented through speed management (for example, creating low-speed zones in urban settings, setting speed limits according to road type); strictly enforcing drink-driving laws that limit blood alcohol concentration to 0.05 g/dl with lower limits for young or novice drivers); increasing the wearing of good quality helmets, and increasing the use of seat-belts.
  • Sexual and reproductive health can be improved by ensuring that young people receive sexuality education, have access to condoms and other contraceptives, safe abortion to the full extent of the law, antenatal and obstetric care, HIV testing and counselling, and HIV/AIDS care and treatment.
  • Violence and suicide can be prevented by ensuring that young people have access to life skills training; promoting positive parental involvement in the lives of young people, reducing the use of alcohol by young people, and reducing their access to lethal means (including firearms, knives, pesticides and sedatives).
  • The immediate and long-term consequences of injuries and violence can be significantly reduced by improving access to effective community-level care and emergency medical care, and providing treatment and support for young people exposed to child abuse, youth violence, and sexual assault.
For more information, contact:

Olivia Lawe-Davies
Communications Officer
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 1209
Mobile: +41 79 475 5545
E-mail: lawedavieso@who.int

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