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Murders, crashes, suicides lead causes of deaths among youths in the Americas

Published:Wednesday | March 6, 2019 | 12:00 AM

A new report by the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has found that half the deaths of all people from 10 to 24 years old in the Americas are due to homicides, road traffic crashes and suicides.

The report is titled ‘The Health of Adolescents and Youth in the Americas: Implementation of the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on Adolescent and Youth Health 2010-2018’.

It analyses the latest available data related to the health of young people in 48 countries and territories of the Americas.

According to PAHO, the study examined information on what these young people die from, the illnesses they suffered, their sexual and reproductive health, substance use, nutrition and levels of physical activity.

“While progress has been made across the Region towards ensuring greater access to health care, many of the interventions to prevent young people from dying before their time fall outside the health sector,” said PAHO director Dr Carissa F. Etienne.

She said there must be increased efforts across all sectors to ensure that young people survive and but thrive.

Around 237 million young people aged 10-24 years live in the Americas, that is almost a quarter of the region’s population.

However, youth mortality rates have only slightly reduced between 2000 and 2015.

Main causes of deaths:

Homicide - 24 per cent
Road traffic crashes - 20 per cent
Suicide - 7 per cent

The report shows that a significant number of young people in the Region continue to suffer from poor health, with more vulnerable groups such as indigenous, Afro-descendent, lesbians gays and bi-sexuals,  and migrant young people being particularly impacted.

“Countries must take action so that all young people, including the most vulnerable, have access to the health services they need, with no one left behind,” said Dr Sonja Caffe, regional adviser on adolescent health at PAHO.

Six recommendations to improve the health of young people:

1. Ensure that adolescent and youth health programmes are well-funded and involve other sectors besides health;

2. Fostering health systems that respond to youth needs

3. Using evidence-based approaches that target vulnerable groups

4. Implement monitoring and evaluation programmes so that continual improvements are made

5. Building capacity for those who work with young people

6. Empower and engage young people as agents of change in their communities and countries.



Mortality rates higher for males than females in the Americas

Eighty per cent of the 230,000 young people who die in the Americas are males, a new Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) study has found.

Of this figure nine out of ten deaths are due to homicide, four out of five to road traffic crashes and three out of four suicides.

READ: The Health of Adolescents and Youth in the Americas

Homicide rates in young men aged 10-24 years ranged from three per 100,000 in Honduras to 121.3 per 100,000 in The Bahamas in 2013-2014.

For women, the rates varied from 0.2 per 100,000 in Honduras to 21.1 in Saint Vincent and The Grenadines.

“It is important that countries acknowledge that the higher mortality rates seen among young men is due, in part, to the pressure they face to adhere to gender norms that may contribute to harmful behaviour such as aggression and risk-taking,” said Dr Sonja Caffe, regional adviser on adolescent health at PAHO.

She said this is why it is so important that health workers engage with families, schools and communities to tackle the social norms that impact physical and mental health.

Suicide rates also continue to increase throughout the region.

While more young women attempt suicide, more young men die from it.

Suicide rates among women aged 10-24 years ranged from 0.7 per 100,000 in Puerto Rico to 19.4 per 100,000 in French Guiana in 2013-2014.

For men, the rates vary from 1.6 per 100,000 in Honduras to 51.6 per 100,000 in French Guiana.


Latin America and the Caribbean has the second-highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the world, estimated at 66.5 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 for 2010-2015.

The worldwide average is 46 births per 1,000 girls.

According to PAHO, while the total number of children per adult woman has declined in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past 30 years, the rates of adolescent pregnancy have barely reduced.

It said Latin America and the Caribbean is also the only region to experience a rising trend in adolescent pregnancies among girls younger than 15 years.

A few countries, however, are beginning to see faster declines in their adolescent pregnancy rates.

Maternal mortality was the fourth leading cause of death among women aged 10-24 in the Americas during 2010-2014, due to complications in pregnancy and delivery in adolescents.


Death by the numbers

•    More than 45,000 youth aged 15-24 die from homicide each year in the Americas.

•    Around 30,000 youth aged 15-24 die from road traffic fatalities each year in the Americas.

New teen drivers are up to 10 times more likely to have accidents than adults.

•    Around 12,000 youth aged 15-24 years die from suicide each year in the Americas.

•    Adolescent girls with primary education or less are up to four times more likely to initiate childbearing than girls with secondary or higher education.

•    The percentage of tobacco users among adolescents aged 13-17 years in the Americas ranges from 1.9 per cent in Canada to 28.7 per cent in Jamaica.

•    In 21 countries with data, 10-20 per cent of students indicated that they sometimes went hungry because there was not enough food in the home.

•    The literacy rate of youth aged 15-24 years in the Americas is over 98 per cent. However, youth enrolment in secondary school varies between 60-80 per cent and, in some countries, below 50 per cent.

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