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Report Documents Trends in American Youths' Health (dateline July 16, 2009)

An annual report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics highlights many health issues that young Americans face. The report notes, for example, that obesity has increased dramatically over the past three decades, from 8 percent in the early 1970s to 24 percent between 2005 and 2006. At the same time, smoking rates among American youths have declined. Young adults are also at highest risk for injuries. The report, called "Health, United States," uses 2008 data to report on a variety of health statistics and trends in the United States. The current edition features a special section on youth aged 18 to 29.

The report notes that the period between ages 18 and 29 represents a transitional phase of life for many Americans: "As parental and other adult oversight decreases, young people assume increasing responsibility for their own decisions. This includes decisions that will either directly affect their current and future health status-such as alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use or nonuse; sexual activity; childbearing; exercise; and eating habits-as well as decisions that will indirectly affect their future health."

A snapshot of the report's findings on young Americans is provided below:

  • Obesity rates have tripled among young adults in the past three decades, from 8 percent in 1971-1974 to 24 percent in 2005-2006.
  • In 2006, 29 percent of young men were current cigarette smokers, compared to 21 percent of young adult women. Between 1997 and 2006, the percentage of women 18-29 years of age who currently smoked cigarettes declined nearly 20 percent. Current smoking did not decline significantly among young men.
  • In 2005, unintentional injuries or accidents, homicide, and suicide accounted for 70 percent of deaths among young adults 18-29 years of age. Three-quarters of the 47,000 deaths in this age group occurred among young men. Young adults also have the highest rate of injury-related emergency department visits of all age groups.
  • In 1999-2004, almost 9 percent of adults aged 20-29 reported having major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or panic disorder in the past 12 months.
  • In 2006, adults aged 20-24 were more likely to be uninsured (34 percent) than those aged 18-19 (21 percent) and 25-29 (29 percent).
  • In 2004-2006, 17 percent of adults aged 18-29 reported needing but not receiving one or more of the following services in the past year because they could not afford them: medical care, prescription medicines, mental health care, or eyeglasses.
  • In 2007, less than 3% of young adults age 18-19 were married and living with their spouse, increasing to 15% at age 20-24 years. By age 25-29 years, 41% were married (36% of men and 47% of women). This represents a substantial decline from 1980 when 62% of men and 70% of women age 25-29 years were married.
  • Most young adults 18-29 years of age are employed for pay (about 66%) but only 42% are employed full-time, year round.
  • One-half of black and Hispanic young adults live below 200% of the poverty line, compared with less than one-third of white and Asian young adults.
Source: CDC, NCHS

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