Death Rates of Children, Young Adults Show Reversal

TUESDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) — Death rates among teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 are now higher than among children aged 1 to 4 years in many countries, says a new study that shows a reversal of historical death patterns.

The international team of researchers that analyzed the causes and patterns of death among children over 5 years old in 50 countries between 1955 and 2004 also found that death rates among young males aged 15 to 24 are now two to three times higher than for boys aged 1 to 4 years.

Injury is the leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, they noted.

Here are some of the specific findings:

  • In the 1950s, the death rate for children aged 1 to 4 was much higher than all other age groups. Since then, the death rate among children aged 1 to 9 fell by 80 to 93 percent, mostly because of reductions in deaths from infectious diseases.
  • Over the same time, the decline in the death rate among young people aged 15 to 24 was only about half that of young children, largely because of increases in injury-related deaths, particularly in young males. By the start of this century, injuries caused 70 to 75 percent of all deaths in young males aged 10 to 24 in all the countries included in the study.
  • By 2004, violence and suicide were responsible for one-quarter to one-third of deaths in young men aged 10 to 24.

The findings suggest that not enough is being done to deal with the health problems and causes of death among these young people, said the researchers.

The study appears online March 28 in The Lancet.

“The profound health and social changes that have accompanied economic development and urbanization are particularly toxic for young people in both high-income and low-income settings,” Michael Resnick, of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, wrote in an accompanying commentary.

“Breakthroughs in medical discovery and service delivery are incomplete responses to the health threats faced by young people, in view of the profound role of socioeconomic conditions, access to education, and opportunity as determinants of life trajectory. Adolescence represents the second crucial window for prevention and health promotion. Effectively addressing the social determinants of health in the second decade of life can interrupt the processes by which disadvantage becomes adverse destiny, including premature mortality,” he added in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about injuries among children and teens.