Trends in adolescent health: Perspective from the United States

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Over the past decade there have been dramatic changes in the demographic trends in the adolescent population, and in causes of morbidity and mortality among young people in the United States. Today, more than three-quarters of all mortality during the second decade is environmental/behavioral in etiology. This review describes demopraphic trends, negative health outcomes, automotive mortality, interpersonal violence, suicide, risk behaviors, alcohol and tobacco use, smoking, sexual and reproductive health, contraception, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Adolescent health trends in the United States displays a mixed picture. There have been dramatic improvements in the last decade with a substantial decline in both injury-related deaths and homicide during the teen years. Likewise, teen pregnancy has declined every year since 1991, and weapon carrying has continued to decrease. Encouraging as these trends may be, the United States continues to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate of any country in the industrialized world. Likewise, annual adolescent homicide rates exceed those of the other 23 wealthiest countries combined. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars targeted to smoking prevention among adolescents, rates are significantly higher than a decade ago. Likewise, stress seems to be higher among young people today than previously, and it appears to increase by nearly 50 percent between 13 and 18 years of age. Over the past decade we have learned much about what makes a difference in reducing risk. Perhaps most importantly we have learned that many of the most successful interventions - whether violence, pregnancy, or substance-abuse reduction - focus not only on reducing problem behavior, but build on young people's strengths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-295
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes



  • Adolescent health trends
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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