BACKGROUND: Young people aged 10-24 years represent 27% of the world's population. Although important health problems and risk factors for disease in later life emerge in these years, the contribution to the global burden of disease is unknown. We describe the global burden of disease arising in young people and the contribution of risk factors to that burden.

METHODS: We used data from WHO's 2004 Global Burden of Disease study. Cause-specific disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for young people aged 10-24 years were estimated by WHO region on the basis of available data for incidence, prevalence, severity, and mortality. WHO member states were classified into low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries, and into WHO regions. We estimated DALYs attributable to specific global health risk factors using the comparative risk assessment method. DALYs were divided into years of life lost because of premature mortality (YLLs) and years lost because of disability (YLDs), and are presented for regions by sex and by 5-year age groups.

FINDINGS: The total number of incident DALYs in those aged 10-24 years was about 236 million, representing 15.5% of total DALYs for all age groups. Africa had the highest rate of DALYs for this age group, which was 2.5 times greater than in high-income countries (208 vs 82 DALYs per 1000 population). Across regions, DALY rates were 12% higher in girls than in boys between 15 and 19 years (137 vs 153). Worldwide, the three main causes of YLDs for 10-24-year-olds were neuropsychiatric disorders (45%), unintentional injuries (12%), and infectious and parasitic diseases (10%). The main risk factors for incident DALYs in 10-24-year-olds were alcohol (7% of DALYs), unsafe sex (4%), iron deficiency (3%), lack of contraception (2%), and illicit drug use (2%).

INTERPRETATION: The health of young people has been largely neglected in global public health because this age group is perceived as healthy. However, opportunities for prevention of disease and injury in this age group are not fully exploited. The findings from this study suggest that adolescent health would benefit from increased public health attention.


Evidence from burden of disease and economic costing studies amply indicate that the public health burden from hazardous and harmful use of alcohol in South Africa warrants drastic action. Evidence that banning alcohol advertising is likely to be an effective intervention is reflected in WHO strategy documents on non-communicable diseases and harmful use of alcohol. Studies on young people furthermore support arguments refuting the claim that advertising only influences brand choice. Given the weakness of relying on industry self-regulation, the government is considering legislation to ban alcohol advertising, resulting in heated debate. Tobacco control and studies investigating the effect of alcohol advertising bans on consumption and alcohol-related deaths point to the effectiveness of such action - ideally supplemented by other policy interventions. Arguments against an advertising ban include possible communication sector job losses, but these are likely to have been exaggerated. Banning alcohol advertising will necessitate greater scrutiny of digital media, satellite television and merchandising to reduce the likelihood of subverting the ban.

06 May 2014 In Pregnant Women

OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of low to moderate maternal alcohol consumption and binge drinking in early pregnancy on behaviour in children at the age of 5 years.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Neuropsychological testing in four Danish cities, 2003-2008.

POPULATION: A total of 1628 women and their children sampled from the Danish National Birth Cohort.

METHODS: Participants were sampled based on maternal alcohol drinking patterns during early pregnancy. When the children were 5 years of age the parent and teacher versions of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were completed by the mothers and a preschool teacher, respectively. The full statistical model included the following potential confounding factors: maternal binge drinking or low to moderate alcohol consumption, respectively; parental education; maternal IQ; prenatal maternal smoking; the child's age at testing; the child's gender; maternal age; parity; maternal marital status; family home environment; postnatal parental smoking; prepregnancy maternal body mass index (BMI); and the child's health status.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Behaviour among children assessed by the SDQ parent and teacher forms.

RESULTS: Adjusted for all potential confounding factors, no statistically significant associations were observed between maternal low to moderate average weekly alcohol consumption and SDQ behavioural scores (OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.5-2.3; OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.6-2.1 for the total difficulties scores) or between binge drinking and SDQ behavioural scores (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.8-1.7; OR 0.8, 95% CI 0.6-1.2).

CONCLUSION: This study observed no consistent effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption or binge drinking in early pregnancy on offspring behaviour at the age of 5 years.

06 May 2014 In Pregnant Women

Background: To examine the effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy on child motor function at age 5.

Methods: A prospective follow-up study of 685 women and their children sampled from the Danish National Birth Cohort based on maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. At 5 years of age, the children were tested with the "Movement Assessment Battery for Children" (MABC). Parental education, maternal IQ, prenatal maternal smoking, the child's age at testing, and gender of child were considered core confounders, while the full model also controlled for prenatal maternal binge drinking episodes, age, maternal prepregnancy body mass index, parity, home environment, postnatal parental smoking, health status, and indicators for hearing and vision impairment.

Results: There were no systematic or significant differences in motor function between children of mothers reporting low to moderate levels of average alcohol consumption during pregnancy and children of mothers who abstained.

Conclusions: In this study, we found no systematic association between low to moderate maternal alcohol intake during pregnancy and child motor function at age 5.

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