Working to safeguard health, well-being and human rights of adolescents with WHO guidelines

Kolkata, Jan 8: Many adolescents make the transition to and through adolescence in good health; many others do not.

Every year, 1.1 million adolescents die, mostly from preventable causes. Tens of millions of adolescents experience illnesses and injuries that hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. What is more, hundreds of millions of adolescents live in unhealthy environments and/or develop unhealthy habits or unequitable gender attitudes that will negatively affect their future health.

When children move into early adolescence, they begin to take on new gender roles associated with femininity and masculinity, often reinforcing socially and culturally conventional gender norms related with being women or men.

These gender roles have an impact upon the decisions that young people in early adolescence make, and therefore upon their health and well-being. They have an impact on the choices young adolescents make in relation to sexual and inter-personal relationships, which can have an effect on their health and well-being throughout the rest of their lives.

The world now has more young people than ever before – of the 7.2 billion people worldwide, over 3 billion are younger than 25 years, making up 42 per cent of the world population. Around 1.2 billion of these young people are adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years.

Adolescence is a critical time of life. It is a time when people become independent individuals, forge new relationships, develop social skills and learn behaviours that will last the rest of their lives. It can also be one of the most challenging periods.

In this turbocharged neurological, physical, and emotional transition from childhood to adulthood, young people face a range of health risks. They are often exposed to harmful products such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs, they face greater risks of violence (including homicide) and road traffic injuries than in childhood, and can experience devastating mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance abuse and addiction to video games, as well as eating disorders and suicide.

The Insides Speak