YOLO!” It’s the call of kids these days, and it means “you only live once.” But teenagers have it pretty tough, and no one wants them to “YOLO” themselves into an early grave. Puberty is awkward, school is boring, and parents are the worst. But there are other insidious factors that make adolescent life hard. Pressure to smoke, drink, and have sex lead to health problems, as do hours spent in front of video games and television. Consider the top eight health concerns for adolescents. Be safe out there — you only live once.
- Childhood and adolescent obesity is often cited as the top health concern for young people in America. First Lady Michelle Obama recognizes the severity of the issue, and has made combating youth obesity her pet project. Obesity increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other health problems. One out of six adolescents is obese. Tips for parents can be found here.
- Drug use, experimentation, and abuse are top health concerns for young people. According to TeenHelp.Com, more than one-third of high school teens have used marijuana in the past year, while 70% of teens have used alcohol. Also problematic for teens? Cocaine, stimulant, and inhalant use, as well as prescription drug abuse. Another concerning statistic of teen drug use is its availability — almost one-third of high school teens have reported that drugs are readily available to them at school.
- It’s not just marijuana that kids are lighting up — cigarette smoking is a huge health concern for teens. Six thousand young people begin smoking tobacco every day, and one-third of those will continue their habit. When you do the math, that’s approximately 800,000 new smokers every year. And all of these are adolescents. Learn more about preventing teen smokinghere.
- Teen pregnancy and sexual health are an enormous concern for adolescents. While teen pregnancy has been steadily declining (a 44% drop since 1991), shows like 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom are some of the most popular on television. TheCDC reports that while birth rates are declining, the U.S. still boasts nine times as many teenage mothers as many developing countries. If you’re a teenager in need of education about your sexual health, click here.
- Even in adolescents, child abuse and neglect are huge youth health concerns. Young girls who suffer abuse are 25% more likely to become pregnant as a teenager, and a whopping 80% of abuse sufferers meet the criteria for at least one psychological disorder by the age of 21. Another harrowing statistic? More than 90% of young sexual abuse victims are acquainted with their abuser. Child abuse happens in every socioeconomic class, and across ethnicities and genders. Learn more about how you can prevent it here.
- While it’s viewed as a rite of passage for teens, driving is also a key health concern of today’s youth. Any number of unknowns exist on the open road, and young drivers are more susceptible to driving mistakes due to lack of experience. Sixteen-year-old drivers have the highest crash rate of any driving age, and death rates increase upon addition of passengers. One-third of teen deaths occur due to auto accidents. For tips on vehicle and driving safety, visit SafeTeenDriving.org.
- Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, and it’s a top health concern for America’s teens. Learning how to handle life’s road bumps is normal, but the amount of stress today’s teens are expected to handle gracefully is not. Stress can come from family, finances, academics, or social pressures — and can lead to a host of future medical problems, as well as acute issues. Teens are most stressed in the early evenings, and they naturally respond to their set of stressors in different ways than adults.
- Being a teenager is tough. Being a teenager and being different than your peers, tougher still. Bullying, puberty, drug use, college, body image, sexual orientation: these are all issues with which today’s teen must grapple. Many teens must deal with adult stressors, and may be ill-equipped to do so; and many adolescents were abused children, whose coping mechanisms are hard-wired differently than most. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in America’s teens, and almost one-fourth of adolescents suffer from a mental health disorder, including severe eating disorders. It gets better, kids. And if it doesn’t, seek help. There are many mental health advocates trained to help you.
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