Young people aged 10 – 24 years in the U.S. have the highest mortality rate among 27 high-income countries around the world according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, which explores the health habits of adolescents from around the globe.
American youth are #1 in smoking marijuana; young people in Canada, Spain and France are next.
American youth are among the top binge drinkers in the world along with young people from Austria and Ireland. Nearly a third of children aged 15 in the top-ranked countries reported binge drinking, which is defined as drinking five drinks or more in one day. The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 while it is as low as 16 in other countries; in the highest-ranked nations, at least one out of five adolescents reported binge drinking at least once a week. Norway was found to have the fewest young binge drinkers and the Ukraine the highest.
Young people in the U.S. are not smoking at the same rates as those in countries. Across the globe, rates of smoking in this age group were highest in both boys and girls in Austria, Chile, Malta, and Namibia. In Latin American, North America and many sub-Saharan African countries, rates of tobacco use were similar for boys and girls, while they were higher for boys in most Asian regions, the Caribbean and the eastern Mediterranean.
In a bright spot for U.S. adolescents’ health, those aged 13 – 15 were also found to exercise more than their peers in other countries. Boys in the U.S. ranked at the top in this area and girls second. But in other countries, particularly those in North Africa and the Middle East, “very few girls” met the recommendations for physical activity.
However, with one-third of children in the U.S. categorized as obese, The Lancet said that obesity in the U.S. is an “epidemic.” Rates of obesity were also found to be higher among boys in higher-income countries, with more than a third of boys in Canada, Greece, Italy, Malta and the U.S. overweight. Some lower- and middle- income countries including China, the eastern Mediterranean countries and Latin American countries also reported that one-fifth to one-third of boys were overweight.
With the exception of some Latin American countries, The Lancet found that ”estimates for binge drinking from high-income countries were substantially higher than those derived from low-income and middle-income countries.” It goes without saying that these data present a disturbing portrait not only of the health and the lifestyle choices of young people around the globe. Data showing that young people in the U.S. have such a high mortality rate as compared to other high-income nations suggests, sadly, that industrial development, access to technology and quality health care and much more do not necessarily lead to good health or habits that promote good health. How can we better use the knowledge about health and science that we have to lead adolescents healthy lives?
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