Sharp rise in obesity, anemia among adolescents worldwide

Nearly a billion young people across the world are living in countries where they face multiple health burdens, a jump of more than 250 million from nearly two decades ago, according to new research. Here’s a rundown of the study:

  • The design: The authors looked at changes across 195 countries between 1990 and 2016 for a dozen health indicators, including rates of obesity, anemia and infectious disease. 
  • The findings: Adolescent obesity more than doubled to nearly 325 million people, while the rate of anemia also climbed 20 percent. However, 38 million fewer adolescents smoked in 2016 than in 1990. 
  • The takeaway: “Despite improvements in many settings, the adolescent health challenge is greater today than it was 25 years ago,” the study authors write.

From 1990 to 2016, remarkable shifts in adolescent health occurred. A decrease in disease burden in many countries has been offset by population growth in countries with the poorest adolescent health profiles. Compared with 1990, an additional 250 million adolescents were living in multi-burden countries in 2016, where they face a heavy and complex burden of disease. The rapidity of nutritional transition is evident from the 324·1 million (18%) of 1·8 billion adolescents globally who were overweight or obese in 2016, an increase of 176·9 million compared with 1990, and the 430·7 million (24%) who had anaemia in 2016, an increase of 74·2 million compared with 1990. Child marriage remains common, with an estimated 66 million women aged 20–24 years married before age 18 years. Although gender-parity in secondary school completion exists globally, prevalence of NEET remains high for young women in multi-burden countries, suggesting few opportunities to enter the workforce in these settings.

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