Current Status + Progress
Patterns of mortality change as children enter adolescence

In 2012 alone, an estimated 1.3 million deaths occurred worldwide among 10–19-year-olds.[1] Road injuries, AIDS-related causes, suicide, lower respiratory infections and interpersonal violence were the top five leading causes of death in adolescents and young people in 2012.[2] However, there has been a modest drop in the adolescent mortality rate from 126 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 111 per 100,000 in 2012.[3] Despite this overall decline in mortality, the estimated number of global AIDS-related deaths among adolescents aged 10-19 has nearly tripled from 21,000 in 2000 to 60,000 in 2014, despite decreasing among all other age groups.[4] This negative trend is likely attributed to the increasing number of perinatally-infected infants who have survived into adolescence, often undetected or initiated late and not retained on treatment.

A look at what adolescents are dying of provides a glimpse of the disparate challenges in keeping all adolescents healthy. Until age 10, mortality is not differentiated substantially by sex and 85 per cent of children’s deaths are attributed to communicable and non-communicable diseases.[5] As children become adolescents, HIV/AIDS and injuries become more prominent. In fact, AIDS-related causes were the leading cause of death among 10-14 year-olds in 2012 while deaths due to road injuries were the leading cause among those between the ages of 15 and 19.[6] Intentional and unintentional injuries combined were responsible for the deaths of 28 per cent and 44 per cent of adolescents aged 10 to 14 and 15 to 19, respectively.[7]

During adolescence, particularly among older ages, mortality patterns often differ by sex (for some causes of death)[8] with environmental and behavioural factors beginning to play a more central role among both boys and girls. For instance, the proportion of deaths due to intentional injuries among boys rises from 6 per cent at age 10 to 14 to 22 per cent at age 15 to 19 while it increases among girls from 5 per cent to 14 per cent across the same age groups.[9] For girls between the ages of 15 and 19, however, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death (after self-harm) globally, with little change in the ranking since 2000.[10] However, there has been a significant drop in the number of deaths from maternal causes among 15-19 year-old adolescent girls in all regions of the world between 2000 and 2012.[11]

Patterns of mortality change as children enter adolescence
Percentage distribution of deaths among boys aged 0 to 19 years in 2012, by cause and by age group

Source: World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates (GHE) Summary Tables: Deaths by cause, age, sex and region, 2012, WHO Geneva 2014, recalculated by UNICEF.

Percentage distribution of deaths among girls aged 0 to 19 years in 2012, by cause and by age group

Source: World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates (GHE) Summary Tables: Deaths by cause, age, sex and region, 2012, WHO Geneva 2014, recalculated by UNICEF.

Sub-Saharan Africa carries the greatest burden of AIDS-related deaths among adolescents
Estimated number and percentage distribution of AIDS-related deaths among adolescents aged 10-19 years, by region, 2014

** CEE/CIS: Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Source: UNAIDS 2014 HIV and AIDS estimates, July 2015.


[1] World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates (GHE) 2012, WHO, Geneva, 2014, .

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] UNAIDS, 2014 HIV and AIDS estimates, July 2015, .

[5] United Nations Children’s Fund, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, UNICEF, New York, 2014, p. 33

[6] World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates (GHE) 2012, WHO, Geneva, 2014, .

[7] United Nations Children’s Fund, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, UNICEF, New York, 2014, p. 33

[8] Viner, R. M., et al., ’50-year Mortality Trends in Children and Young People: A study of 50 low-income, middle-income and high-income countries’, The Lancet, vol. 377, no. 9772, 2011, pp. 1162-1174.

[9] United Nations Children’s Fund, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, UNICEF, New York, 2014, p. 33

[10] World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates (GHE) 2012, WHO, Geneva, 2014, .

[11] Ibid.

SUB-TOPICS

Adolescent well-being encompasses many dimensions and UNICEF monitors several adolescent-specific indicators in the following vital areas: