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Depression is the Leading Cause of Illness in Teens

Update Date: May 14, 2014 12:06 PM EDT

Depression can be a highly debilitating disease especially when it is left untreated for people of all ages. According to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of illness and disability for teenagers throughout the world.

"The world has not paid enough attention to the health of adolescents," said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women and Children's Health, WHO. "We hope this report will focus high-level attention on the health needs of 10 to 19-year-olds and serve as a springboard for accelerated action on adolescent health."

For this report, the United Nations agency combined already published data and consultations on the health of children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19. The information, which involved youth from all over the world, included data on drug and alcohol use, HIV rate, injuries, mental health, nutrition and diet, sexual and reproductive health and any incidences of violence.

The WHO researchers concluded that depression was the top cause of illness and disability in children and teens. The team reported that in some of the studies, 50 percent of the people with mental disorders experienced symptoms starting at the age of 14. The second leading cause of illness and disability was traffic injuries. Boys were three times more likely to die from traffic incidents than girls.

When the researchers examined death rates in 2012, they found that the top three leading causes of death in order were road traffic injuries, HIV/AIDs and suicide. During that year, 1.3 million adolescents had died. The researchers stressed the importance of implementing new policies that encourage safe driving and safe, protected sex. Countries should also find better ways of detecting and treating mental health issues earlier on.

"We must not let up on efforts to promote and safeguard the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents, including HIV," said WHO scientist Jane Ferguson, lead author of the report according to Medical Xpress.

She added, "If left unchecked, health problems and behaviors that arise during adolescence-such as tobacco and alcohol use, diet and exercise patterns, overweight and obesity-have a serious impact on the health and development of adolescents today, and potentially devastating effects on their health as adults tomorrow."

The news release for WHO's "Health for the world's adolescents" report can be found here.

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