A labour ward for teenage expectant mothers in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

By Nicola Davis - 16 May 2017

Pregnancy complications are the leading cause of death globally among females aged 15-19, with self-harm in second place, a global study has found.

More than 1.2 million female and male adolescents die annually, the World Health Organization (WHO) report said – the majority from preventable causes including mental health issues, poor nutrition, reproductive health problems and violence.

The authors said that failing to tackle the health of 10- to 19-year-olds could undermine the improvements achieved in maternal and child health worldwide, pointing out that too often adolescent health was overlooked.

“By investing in adolescent health, you actually get a triple benefit because you get a healthier adolescent now, that healthier adolescent becomes a healthier, more productive adult in the near future, and also for those who have children, they become a more healthy parent,” said David Ross, lead author of the study. “If you have a healthy parent, that spills over into a healthy child.”

The WHO surveyed the causes of death for 10- to 19-year-olds in 2015. It found that the leading cause, globally, was road injuries, which caused 115,300 such deaths.

The next biggest killers were:

  • Lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
  • Self-harm.
  • Diarrhoeal diseases.
  • Drowning.

There were considerable differences when the results were compartmentalised by sex and age.

For girls aged 10-14, the leading cause of death was lower respiratory infections, but the biggest problems for those aged 15-19 were maternal conditions including haemorrhage, complications from unsafe abortion and obstructed labour. These occurrences led to 10.1 deaths for every 100,000 individuals.

For boys in both age groups, the leading cause of death was injury from road accidents, with drowning the second leading cause for the younger age group and violence in second place for boys aged 15-19.

World Health Organization – WHO – Fact Sheet 2017 - ADOLESCENTS: HEALTH RISKS & SOLUTIONS

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs345/en/

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