Better access to condoms and birth control definitely increase the likelihood of safe sex, but according to the report, education is the key.
In a new report from a Lancet Commission, unsafe sex was found to be one of the biggest health risks for people aged 10 to 24. With two-thirds of children growing up in countries where preventable and treatable diseases continue to threaten their health, the report recommends better investment in education so people know what those diseases are and how to avoid them.
“From a life-course perspective, adolescents stand at the crossroads of the major challenges to global health: HIV/AIDS, intention and unintentional injuries, sexual and reproductive health, and chronic disease,” John Santelli, MD, MPH, and chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said in a statement. “Investments in adolescent health have the potential to alter the future course of global health.”
Education is one of those investments, the report shows. Access to secondary education, especially, is key because, "Every year of education beyond age 12 is associated with fewer births for adolescent girls and fewer adolescent deaths for boys and girls," the report notes. Because young people are typically resilient, there haven’t been many investments in teen health, according to the report.
The problem is that most people at that age develop the kind of habits that put them at risk when they get older.
Unsurprisingly, mental health issues are also one of the major health risks for teens. While unsafe sex is the fastest growing risk, rising from 13th place in 1990 to 2nd place in 2013, depression is responsible for the “largest amount of ill health” across the globe in 2013. The report found that more than 10% of 10-to-24-year-olds are depressed.
Instead of continuing to under-invest in teen health, the report called its findings a “wakeup call.” While the report noted insurance is a barrier to teens accessing healthcare, it should be noted that there are some resources available for teens in the U.S. Planned Parenthood offers safe sex tips online, and 24-7 hotlines offer support for depression.
We’re lucky that we have these kinds of supports in the U.S., but hopefully this report spurs more investment in teen health across the globe.