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Opinion: The sobering truth of health issues for young adults

When it comes to public health concerns, much of the attention is on the elderly or young children. Often overlooked is the health and wellbeing of young adults ages 19-26, an age group that is often thought of as the healthiest and strongest of all the groups. They are no longer helpless children and are…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/johnhahjr/" target="_self">John Hah</a>

John Hah

February 8, 2021

When it comes to public health concerns, much of the attention is on the elderly or young children. Often overlooked is the health and wellbeing of young adults ages 19-26, an age group that is often thought of as the healthiest and strongest of all the groups. They are no longer helpless children and are in the prime of their youth. However, young adults are actually facing rising health challenges.

The book “Investing in the Health and Well Being of Young Adults addresses the prevalent problems in young adult health and, more importantly, advocates for solutions to those problems. The four most dangerous issues affecting young adult health within the United States include unintentional injuries, suicide, violence, and HIV/AIDS. In order to combat these problems, it is important to recognize their roots and advocate for changes in order to better help young adults become successful and healthy.

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among young adults and adolescents. The “Well Being of Young Adults reports that “[i]n 2016, over 135 000 adolescents died as a result of road traffic accidents” in the United States.

According to 2018 World Health Organization data, on a global scale, many of those who died were “vulnerable road users,” which included cyclists, pedestrians, or users of motorized two or three-wheelers, and about “11% of the drivers involved in fatal crashes were between the ages of 15 and 20.” It is clear that on a national and global level, young adult health is greatly threatened by accidental injuries.

In particular, much of it is due to traffic-related accidents, and thus road safety laws need to be made more comprehensive, and enforcement of such laws needs to be strengthened. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s of a person’s life. Although many young adults may be excellent drivers, the privilege to drive should be restricted to those who are of older age. Therefore, it is important that young drivers have a longer trial and training period before they are allowed to drive.

As stated by the CDC in their report regarding drinking and teens in the year 2012,  “High school students drive intoxicated about 2.4 million times each month, and underage drivers are 17% more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash with alcohol in their system.” Clearly, the people who are under the influence of drugs and intoxication are dangerous on the road, especially if they are young.

According to Driving Laws, the legal level for Blood Alcohol Concentration is 0.08%. At this level, an average person would start to exhibit poor coordination, loss of balance, a drastically slower reaction time, and blurry vision. The legal limit for BAC should be lowered for young people since they are at especially high risk of accidental death and require stricter regulation. Unintentional injuries, such as automobile accidents, sit at the top of the health problems that young adults face, which is why it is important to address them first.

Next,Well Being of Young Adults reports that suicide is another leading cause of illness and disability among young adults.  As stated by the American CDC, “In 2018, there were 48,344 recorded suicides [of young adults in the United States], up from 42,773 in 2014.”

What is even scarier is that suicide rates for both males and females ages 10-24 were significantly higher in 2017 compared to 1999. The first step to fixing suicide is to remove the stigma of suicide. As described by Seattle University, currently, people who are viewed as suicidal are stigmatized and treated with avoidance, fear, underestimation, and dislike by those around them just when they need support the most. It is essential to educate people who stigmatize suicide so that they help those who need it instead of reject them when they are in need. Next, it is obvious that the overall mental health of a person is what needs attention to avoid death by suicide.

The Well Being of Young Adults states that “[v]iolence, poverty, humiliation, and feeling devalued can increase the risk of developing mental health problems.” Clearly, to combat suicide, it is important to provide psychosocial support in schools and other community settings which can help develop better mental health. Moreover, such support programs should help to maintain young adults’ resilience, encourage ways of coping with any mental health challenges, and promote positive mental health habits. They should also support and improve the relationships between adolescents and their families. With suicide as another prominent health issue that many young adults are facing, it is important to address and mitigate it to reduce deaths today.

Finally, Well Being of Young Adults reports that sexually transmitted diseases are another prevalent issue among young adults. The book states that an “estimated 2.1 million young adults were living with HIV in 2016”.  Although the overall number of HIV-related deaths has been decreasing since the peak in 2006, the numbers suggest that this is not yet the case among adolescents. However, a substantial proportion of HIV-positive adolescents are unaware of their status. More so, many of those who are aware of their status do not receive effective, long-term antiretroviral treatment.

As stated by the WHO, “When a person has undiagnosed or untreated HIV the immune system can be damaged and the person can get sick from related infections or cancers.”

Young adults need to understand the severity of the disease and take control to mitigate this issue. They need to know how to protect themselves from HIV infection and must have the means to do so. However, larger access to HIV testing and counseling and stronger subsequent links to HIV treatment services for those who test HIV positive are also needed. Because of the number of young people with HIV, it is important to address this issue with the utmost gravity.

Act for Youth reports data from the U.S. Census Bureau estimating that there was 41,910,114 youth aged 10-19 in the United States, 13% of the total U.S. population, in 2017. Most are healthy, but there are still substantial cases of unintentional deaths and injuries, mental health problems, and HIV and AIDS among the population. Illnesses can hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. Alcohol or tobacco use, lack of physical activity, unprotected sex, and violence can jeopardize not only their current health, but also their health as adults, and even the health of their future children. The impact of young adult health can go on for generations, which is why we should start doing what we can to improve it now. 

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