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September 12, 2009

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Accidents, violence biggest teen killers

ROAD accidents, pregnancy and childbirth complications, suicide, violence, the AIDS virus and tuberculosis are the biggest killers of young people across the world, according to a study published yesterday.

Researchers supported by the World Health Organization said their study -- the first to look at global death rates in those aged 10 to 24 -- exposed the myth of youngsters' beliefs that they are stronger and fitter than other age groups.

In reality, 2.6 million young people die each year and most of those deaths are preventable. Some 97 percent of the deaths were in low- and middle-income countries.

"Mortality rates in low-income and middle-income countries were almost four times higher than were those in high-income countries, a difference that was particularly pronounced for young women," the authors wrote on their study in The Lancet.

According to the WHO, there are more young people in the world today than ever before -- 1.8 billion people aged 10 to 14 account for 30 percent of global population.

But George Patton of the Centre for Adolescent Health and Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia, who led the study, said the needs of this age group were often eclipsed by the very young, the elderly or the very sick when governments draw up health policies.

"We are seeing a shift of mortality to adolescence with economic development," Patton told a news conference in London. "No longer can politicians and those making policy say 'young people are healthy. We don't need to worry.' They do die."

Patton's study found that two in five deaths worldwide in this age group were due to injuries and violence, with young men in poorer regions such as eastern Europe and parts of South America at particularly high risk.

The top cause of adolescent male deaths was road traffic accidents at 14 percent, followed by violence and suicide. Road accidents were also the biggest overall killer, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths in the 10 to 24 age group, with suicide next at 6.3 percent.

Pregnancy and childbirth were a leading cause of adolescent female deaths worldwide, at 15 percent.


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