Under Age 24? Your Biggest Health Risks May Surprise You

Everyone by now has heard the mantra of how important safe sex is. But a new study shows that it is actually more important than originally thought – that just one or two sexual encounters without a condom is becoming increasingly likely to spread a sexually transmitted disease, including Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer, and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which can lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancy. Of course, those are just some of the risks of unprotected sex. We’ve long been warned about the dangers of HIV and Hepatitis, Herpes, Genital Warts, Syphilis, Gonorrhea and unplanned pregnancy, which can lead to serious physical, emotional, financial, psychological and societal fallout. With all of these dangers so well known, it seems reasonable that people would be taking more preventive steps to stop these maladies, but in a new report from a Lancet Commission, these risks continue to be major plagues of those aged 10- to 24-years-old, according to World News. John Santelli, MD, MPH, and chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said that globally, much more needs to be done to ensure the wellness of young people and prevention of sex-related concerns.

“From a life-course perspective, adolescents stand at the crossroads of the major challenges to global health: HIV/AIDS, intention and unintentional injuries, sexual and reproductive health, and chronic disease. Investments in adolescent health have the potential to alter the future course of global health. Every year of education beyond age 12 is associated with fewer births for adolescent girls and fewer adolescent deaths for boys and girls.”

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While developed countries typically see less morbidity and fatality than third-world nations, it is important to note that two-thirds of the world’s youth are growing up in countries without critical access to health care, sexual education, birth control, and disease prevention. This is felt on the global level through the intense need for international charities to address concerns in these countries, but it’s not nearly enough. That’s not to say that those young people in first-world countries aren’t severely affected by poor sexual decision-making and lack of accurate sex education – it remains one of the top two health concerns for young people in Europe and the United States as well.

Of interest, and perhaps of correlation, depression is the other major health risk to young people globally between the ages of ten and twenty-four. Depressed people often have difficulty making decisions, or they may be apathetic about their future and take more risks than those who are not depressed, studies have shown. Regardless of etiology, unsafe sex is the fastest growing risk, rising from 13th place in 1990 to 2nd place in 2013, depression is no longer something that can be universally ignored: it is responsible for the “largest amount of ill health” across the world in 2013. The report stated that more than one of ten people aged ten to twenty-four is depressed globally, meaning that many social indicators such as wealth or culture may play less of a role in depression that once believed. In the United States, suicide remains one of the most common causes of death for young people.

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In fact, according to the National Catholic Register, children are now more likely to die from suicide than from motor vehicle accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Marsha Levy-Warren, a clinical psychologist who works with adolescents, says that social media is likely a causative factor, particularly for younger teenagers. Interestingly, even third-world countries have considerable access to the internet in various locales.

“It’s clear to me that the question of suicidal thoughts and behavior in this age group has certainly come up far more frequently in the last decade than it had in the previous decade. If something gets said that’s hurtful or humiliating, it’s not just the kid who said it who knows, it’s the entire school or class. In the past, if you made a misstep, it was a limited number of people who would know about it.”

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