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Challenges of Adolescence

Today’s youth face a number of pressing public health problems:

  • Unintentional Injury
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
  • Unplanned Pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Substance Abuse

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among our young people are usually preventable. While most teenagers escape a close brush with death, each year thousands of American youth are not as fortunate.

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents—Motor vehicle accidents kill more teenagers than all other causes combined with 15,000 deaths reported annually from automobile related injuries alone. Alcohol and other drugs are known to be factors in many of these fatalities.
  • Suicide—Another sobering statistic is that the rate of adolescent suicide has tripled over the past three decades to 5,000 per year. It is estimated that there are 50-200 attempts for every death by suicide.

Many adolescents also succumb to pressures on how to look, feel and act in a society obsessed with people’s appearances and with the desire for immediate gratification:

  • Teen Pregnancy—Each year in this country one million (one in ten) teenage girls become pregnant. The vast majority of these pregnancies are unplanned.
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases—There are also more than three million cases of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, reported among adolescents every year in this country.
  • Alcohol—Over 90 percent of high school seniors have reported some experience with alcohol. The use of tobacco and marijuana among our youth also continues in epidemic proportions with nearly 30 percent of high school seniors reporting that they smoked cigarettes and over 20 percent got high on pot in the last month. Of further concern is that alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are gateway drugs to even more dangerous illicit substances.
  • Eating Disorders—Eating disorders have also become very common as the preoccupation with thinness supersedes a desire to be healthy and teenagers often resort to desperate or even dangerous methods of weight control.