Pronounced changes in patterns of health take place in adolescence and young adulthood,
but the effects on mortality patterns worldwide have not been reported. We analysed
worldwide rates and patterns of mortality between early adolescence and young adulthood.
We obtained data from the 2004 Global Burden of Disease Study, and used all-cause
mortality estimates developed for the 2006 World Health Report, with adjustments for
revisions in death from HIV/AIDS and from war and natural disasters. Data for cause
of death were derived from national vital registration when available; for other countries
we used sample registration data, verbal autopsy, and disease surveillance data to
model causes of death. Worldwide rates and patterns of mortality were investigated
by WHO region, income status, and cause in age-groups of 10-14 years, 15-19 years,
and 20-24 years.
2.6 million deaths occurred in people aged 10-24 years in 2004. 2.56 million (97%)
of these deaths were in low-income and middle-income countries, and almost two thirds
(1.67 million) were in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia. Pronounced rises in
mortality rates were recorded from early adolescence (10-14 years) to young adulthood
(20-24 years), but reasons varied by region and sex. Maternal conditions were a leading
cause of female deaths at 15%. HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis contributed to 11% of deaths.
Traffic accidents were the largest cause and accounted for 14% of male and 5% of female
deaths. Other prominent causes included violence (12% of male deaths) and suicide
(6% of all deaths).
Present global priorities for adolescent health policy, which focus on HIV/AIDS and
maternal mortality, are an important but insufficient response to prevent mortality
in an age-group in which more than two in five deaths are due to intentional and unintentional
WHO and National Health and Medical Research Council.