Factors Affecting Adolescent Health in the United States Research Paper

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According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, adolescents and young adults comprise more than one-fifth, 21%, of the American population.[footnoteRef:1] These teens and young adults will become clients of the healthcare system, and their health plays a significant role in the social, economic, and political development of the nation over the next generation. Therefore, it is important to understand the health factors related to this specific age cohort. A relatively high number, actually the vast majority of teens and young adults are qualified as being in "excellent or very good health," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[footnoteRef:2] According to the Office of Adolescent Health, which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a full 96% of all adolescents in the United States are listed in "good," "very good," or "excellent" health.[footnoteRef:3] [1: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people: Adolescent health. September 2012. Retrieved online: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=2] [2: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adolescent Health." 2012. Retrieved online: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/adolescent_health.htm] [3: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." Retrieved online: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/physical-health-and-nutrition/states/us.html]

Only 6.7% of school-aged adolescents missed 11 or more days of school in 2010.[footnoteRef:4] The bulk of teenagers in the United States do not have any chronic conditions that might impact their performance at school or their social lives; this includes reference to mental health issues such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.[footnoteRef:5] Adolescents with one chronic condition comprise about 17% of the total American population; adolescents with two or more chronic conditions number about 12% of the total population.[footnoteRef:6] The chronic conditions tabulated by the Office of Adolescent Health include learning disability; ADD; ADHD; depression; anxiety problems; behavioral or conduct problems; autism or other autism spectrum disorder; developmental delay; speech problems; asthma; diabetes; Tourette Syndrome; epilepsy or seizure disorder; hearing problems; vision problems; bone or joint problems; and brain injury or concussion.[footnoteRef:7] For statistical purposes, the presence of a chronic condition is indicated only when it has been officially diagnosed by a physician and if the child continues to exhibit that condition at the time of survey.[footnoteRef:8] [4: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adolescent Health." 2012.] [5: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ] [6: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ] [7: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ] [8: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ]

Therefore, the Office of Adolescent Health offers a fairly accurate snapshot of the state of adolescent health in the United States. Although there is some room for improvement, American teenagers are on the whole a healthy population. The health problems that do impact adolescents in the United States include both physical and psychological problems. Some, but not all, of these problems are preventable. One of the most important preventable health problems that is currently affecting adolescents in America is obesity.

Almost 20% of teenagers in the United States were classified as obese in 2007 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[footnoteRef:9] The Office of Adolescent Health offers a more conservative figure, at 13% of high school age students.[footnoteRef:10] Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and overeating are linked with obesity, comprising one of the most important lifestyle factors impacting adolescent physical health. Eating dysfunctions and preliminary signs of eating disorders are relatively common among American teenagers, and especially among females. As many as 17% of all females in high school have gone without eating for 24 hours or more with the express purpose of losing weight; the number of self-starving teens is 7% for male students in high school.[footnoteRef:11] Unhealthy foods are commonly consumed among adolescents, and diet is therefore a factor related to adolescent health. [9: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adolescent Health." 2012.] [10: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ] [11: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ]

Exercise, versus sedentary lifestyle, is a factor related to adolescent health in the United States. According to the Untied States Office of Adolescent Health, only half of all teenagers in the United States are active for a period of 60 minutes or more, five days per week.[footnoteRef:12] Physical exercise is more common among male than female adolescents; in 2011, 47% of females and 57% of males exercised for at least one hour per day, five days per week.[footnoteRef:13] On the contrary, about a third of all adolescents spend three or more hours per day in front of a television.[footnoteRef:14] [12: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ] [13: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ] [14: Office of Adolescent Health (United States Department of Health and Human Services). "United States Adolescent Physical Health Facts." ]

Physical factors are not the only issue related to adolescent health. Behavioral patterns developed during adolescence will have a direct and measurable relationship with health later in life.[footnoteRef:15] Factors affecting adolescent health are often linked to the environment of the home, school, and community. Violence, accidents, and substance abuse are also preventable problems that impact adolescents in the United States. According to Blum, "Violence has replaced communicable diseases as the primary cause of juvenile mortality and, currently, over 77% of adolescent deaths are caused by accidents, suicide, and homicide."[footnoteRef:16] The rate of firearm deaths among the adolescent population in the United States is "higher than the other 25 industrialized nations of the world, combined."[footnoteRef:17] Guns are implicated in suicide deaths, accidents, and homicides in the teen population.[footnoteRef:18] [15: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people: Adolescent health. September 2012.] [16: Robert Blum. "Contemporary Threats to Adolescent Health in the United States." p. 3390] [17: Robert Blum. "Trends in Adolescent Health in the United States -- 2008."] [18: Robert Blum. "Trends in Adolescent Health in the United States -- 2008."]

In addition to gun-related problems, trauma and abuse are not uncommon in the adolescent population. As many as 4.2% of male teenagers, and 10.8% of female teenagers were raped in 2005; 3.4 million teens are the victims of some type of violent crime each year and surprisingly, this number has gone down in recent years.[footnoteRef:19] Bullying is also a factor impacting adolescent health and psychological well-being in the United States. [19: Robert Blum. "Trends in Adolescent Health in the United States -- 2008."]

Therefore, a number of diverse and interrelated factors impact adolescent health in the United States. The different health and safety problems that either start or peak during adolescence are regularly tabulated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Specific health-related problems among adolescents include homicide, suicide, motor vehicle crashes, substance abuse, smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, teen/unplanned pregnancies, and homelessness.[footnoteRef:20] According to Blum, youth account for "nearly half" of all instances of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. Disease is only part of the problem; teen and unwanted pregnancies are also a huge factor related to adolescent health in the United States. This is of course especially true for the female population.[footnoteRef:21] [20: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people: Adolescent health. September 2012.] [21: Robert Blum. "Trends in Adolescent Health in the United States -- 2008." ]

In fact, the vast majority of deaths in the adolescent community are caused not by disease but by motor vehicle crashes; and the older the teenager, the higher the possibility for being involved in a fatal crash.[footnoteRef:22] As many as 81% of all 18-year-old deaths were caused by motor vehicle crashes in 2008.[footnoteRef:23] Environmental factors and stimuli play a major role in determining risk for health and safety problems. "Environmental factors, including family, peer group, school, neighborhood, policies, and societal cues, can either support or challenge young people's health and well-being."[footnoteRef:24] [22: Robert Blum. "Trends in Adolescent Health in the United States -- 2008."] [23: Robert Blum. "Trends in Adolescent Health in the United States -- 2008."] [24: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people: Adolescent health. September 2012.]

Exposure to drugs and/or alcohol, often implicated in motor vehicle crashes, can have a strong bearing on teen health. Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, when left untreated or unnoticed, can cause problems such as substance abuse and suicide. Family of origin issues, and community health and well-being will be factors determining adolescent health. Adolescent rates of prescription drug abuse have become alarmingly high, even though other risk factors such as smoking, are actually…

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