Adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean face multiple dimensions of vulnerability that threaten long-lasting consequences for themselves and their communities threatening their prospects for survival and living healthy lives, if not addressed urgently.
Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the health of adolescents in the region by increasing their levels of stress and anxiety, decreasing their physical activity and access to healthy foods, as well as limiting their access to health services. Interpersonal violence, road traffic injuries, and suicide are the leading causes of adolescent deaths. It is estimated that interpersonal violence causes 41 per cent of deaths among adolescent boys age 15-19 and 11 per cent among adolescent girls 15-19. Girls experience a higher prevalence of sexual violence and psychological violence than boys, and this has been linked to suicidal ideation among victims of violence. Over one in seven adolescents suffer from a mental disorder, with anxiety and depression disorders as the most common mental disorders among adolescents. The region has one of highest adolescent birth rates globally, with higher rates among girls with lower levels of educational attainment as compared to adolescent girls with higher education attainment. A lower proportion of adolescent girls have their demand for family planning satisfied by modern methods, compared to older women.
The evidence presented in this report reminds us that there is no time to lose to achieve healthier lives among adolescents in the region and it is an urgent call that requires immediate and concerted action.
The report makes an urgent call to policy makers to take action to improve the living conditions and prospects for adolescents living in LAC, using an approach that is not only multisectoral but also equity and evidence-based. Specific recommendations include strengthening health systems and the reach of services, engaging adolescents in the design of interventions and solutions to their problems, promoting good mental health and including mental health services in primary health care systems.