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WHO Says Leading Causes Of  Death For Young People Are Preventable

A worldwide study points to traffic accidents as the greatest cause of fatalities among young people (ages 10-24). Other leading factors contributing to death in this age group are suicide, HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis.

"There is an impression that young people are completely healthy, but young people are dying as well," said Dr. Krishna Bose, a researcher for World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. "The sad thing about this report is that most of these deaths are preventable," she said.

Ten percent of the total deaths came from traffic accidents; 6 percent from suicides and other inter-personal violence; 5 percent from HIV/AIDS and 5 percent from Tuberculosis.

"Just when this age group is starting to give us productive members of society, they die from preventable causes," Bose said.

Low Income and Poor Health Care Blamed

Analysis of statistics (from 2004, the last year for which complete statistics are available) showed 97 percent of the 2.6 million deaths among young people came in low and middle income countries. Bose said two-thirds of those deaths came in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, two developing regions where health care is minimal or non-existent.

Mental Health Issues

Beginning at the age of 15, the number of suicides jumped sharply coinciding with the "coming of age."

"Young people are discovering the adult world where they are not entirely welcome," says Bose. "They start feeling the pressure (of becoming an adult) while having problems with their personal identity."

HIV/Aids And Tuberculosis

The number of deaths attributed to communicable diseases comes at a time when teenagers and young adults become sexually active and begin to travel.

There is no cure for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which causes Aids.

Tuberculosis is not a killer disease and is treatable but "people in these areas don't have access to adequate care, which is the real problem," says Bose.

Maternal Deaths

Mothers dying during childbirth is the major cause of deaths among women.

"This can be prevented. It's a question of having adequate health care in place and having a prevention strategy," says Bose.

While a companion report from UNICEF on the mortality of children under the age of five published Friday in the British journal Lancet has received wider coverage, Bose said this is the first time researchers have focused on the causes of death in this age group.

In 2004, the world's population was estimated at 6 billion. The number of people between 10 and 24 years of age was estimated at 1.6 billion.