Health Risks to Your Teen
Parents tend to worry about their children for a million reasons, ranging from whether they will fit in, be respectful, get good grades, and stay safe. Keeping our teens healthy is probably one of the top concerns that a parent has. To keep you up to date, here is a list of some of the biggest health risks today’s teens face:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teen death in the United States, and it estimates that 7 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 die every day from motor vehicle injuries. Keeping our teens safe behind the wheel, or in the passenger seat of a car, should be one of our top priorities. Take the time to clearly lay out your expectations about driving safely, including not drinking and driving, always using a seatbelt, not speeding and avoiding distractions (such as cell phones).
CDC reports that more than 16,000 teens from age 12 to 19 in the United States die per year by violence, making it the second leading cause of teen death. Discuss the dangers with your teen and talk about strategies that can help your teen stay safe. You should cover topics such as gangs, dating abuse, bullying, anger management, and awareness of surroundings.
According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. It is estimated that 500,000 (or 1 in 11) teens attempt suicide every year with 5,000 succeeding. Many more teens think about suicide, but don’t act on it. Suicide is an act of desperation, and teen depression or another psychological disorder is often the root cause, though contributing factors can include bullying, family problems, loneliness, and substance abuse. Try hard to establish a good relationship with your child, since teens with good communication with at least one adult are less likely to engage in risky behaviors or become depressed.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
The CDC reports that, among American high school students surveyed, 46% had sexual intercourse, which puts them at risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Nearly half of the 19 million new reports of STDs each year are among young people aged 15–24 years. Regardless of how you feel about the topic of teen sex, it is extremely important for you and your teen to be aware of the risks for becoming infected with STDs, including gonorrhea and HIV.
Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Drugs
Use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs presents serious health consequences. By senior year, more than two-thirds of students have tried tobacco products. Many teens are convinced that, unlike cigarettes, smoking a hookah or using chewing tobacco is not harmful, which is false. Of high school seniors, 90% have tried alcohol. Nearly one-third of youth begin drinking before age 13. Prescription drugs are also a major concern. The same drugs being used to treat attention deficit disorder are being freely shared by some teens on college campuses and high schools to give them an edge at preparing for exams. Do not assume that your school is teaching your teen all they need to know about substance abuse. Your teen needs to hear you say that you do not want them using drugs.
Eating Disorders or Obesity
High school students are not the best at making healthy decisions:
- Almost 87% of high school students do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- More than 25 percent eat more than two servings of high fat products a day.
- Approximately 33 percent do not get enough exercise.
- One of every 100 students will struggle with an eating disorder. They may starve themselves or binge eat and then purge themselves to avoid weight gain.
- The CDC reports that in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Teens need to be taught the value of exercise and nutritious, balanced eating.
Even the tools we love to use can cause health issues. Teens are obsessed with technology, but warn them of two major trends that can impact their health negatively. First, according to published research, about 12.5 percent of American children ,between the ages of 6 and 19, have measurable noise-induced hearing loss in one or both ears. There is no way to regain hearing loss, so it is our job to ensure we prevent hearing loss. Ask them to turn down the volume! Second, the majority of teens are connected well into the night. Some teens stay up late playing video games, go to sleep listening to their iPods, and exchange text messages late into the night. Teens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night to be at their best. Explain how sleep deprivation can impact how they feel and encourage them to “unplug” at least an hour before an established bedtime.
While we can’t watch our teens every day, there are steps we can take to hopefully keep them healthy. Review the risks listed above, and arm your teen with knowledge so they can make better choices.