Teenage population comprise up to 22% of the American population. The patterns in behavior observed among teenagers in development stage may help to understand the health status of young people and the possibility of them developing chronic diseases when they reach adulthood. Teenagers are generally healthy in most times of their lives but significant social and health issues start at this stage (Braveman & Barclay, 2009). For instance health issues include weight and nutrition concerns, STDs and HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, and mental disorders. Because teenagers are in a stage they transition to adulthood, they are sensitive to occurrences in their surrounding such as schools, families, neighborhoods, peer groups. These groups may threaten or support teen’s health. Also, policies in a society and cues for example structural racism and messages from the media potentially do the same.
Those teenagers who have chronic conditions face numerous challenges in the process of transition from a child to become an adult (Harris et al. 2011). The health issues among teenagers majorly arise due to peer pressures and worldly figures that are celebrities. This article examines the health issues among teenagers and different factors that threaten the health status. This article majorly discusses adolescents who constitute teenagers.
Adolescence is defined as the period between childhoods to adulthood. During this period, social physical, intellectual and emotional growth takes place teenage age is considered between 13 to 20 years (Blakemore & Choudhury, 2006). In health, puberty which is responsible for sexual development and hence enables reproduction is the starting point of adolescence. At the age of 13 both boys and girls start to sexually develop and assume the appearance of either a young man or woman. Physical development is complete at the age of 20. Major mental growth occurs during adolescence. Sexual interest in the opposite sex takes place during an adolescent stage.
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that car accidents, homicide, heart disease, suicide and cancer cause most deaths among teenagers. Homicide cause most teen deaths among black non-Hispanic ethnic groups (Teplin et al. 2005). The death rate increase every year at the ages 12 and 19 years. Additional heath issues among teens are alcohol and substance abuse which has a direct relationship to unsafe sex, STDs such as HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, hepatitis B, syphilis, gonorrhea etc., criminal activity and unplanned pregnancy. It is important for teenagers to practice good health and hygiene. Teens live between childhoods as they transition to adulthood and have specific needs which are different from adults. Emotional changes include irritability and change of moods, and are often bored and sometimes neglect their appearance. In worst scenarios, they feel down towards themselves when faced with depression and may develop eating disorders hence start to use drugs and alcohol to temporarily feel better about themselves.
Teenage depression should be regarded as a serious condition which affects thought, behavior and moods (Koutelekos & Haliasos, 2013). Depression as a disorder develops gradually among young child but is also present in teenagers. It is estimated that 5% of teenage population will develop depression but about 20% of teens who develop this condition get proper diagnosis and treatment (Barbara, 2015). The symptoms for depression disorder can be easily missed if a physician does not know what to look for. It is wrong for parents and teachers to think that it is natural for teenagers to be moody or unhappy. Consistent moodiness or unhappiness calls for immediate attention. In medicine, depression is considered a medical ailment which is caused by imbalance of chemical composition of the brain (Maher, 2009). Neutrons are responsible for sending messages through nerve endings with synapses in between the nerve endings to the brain. A chemical which transmits information is called serotonin. Serotin wears off when a person abuse drugs, a reason why teenagers are depressed. In a depressed state, the neurons fails to function normally hence changes in thoughts, feelings and behavior.
The chemical imbalance in the brain can be restored via use of antidepressants. There are two types of depression; unipolar disorder (also known as major depression) and manic-depressive disorder (dipolar disorder). Symptoms of major depression among teenagers include lack of interest in normal activities, rapid weight gain or weight loss, less or too much sleep, poor concentration, feelings of hopeless and helpless, and suicidal thoughts (Maher, 2009). It is unfortunate that children at the age of 5 and 6 years have made attempts to end their lives while some have succeeded. Manic-depressive disorder is associated with racing thoughts and fast talking, significant mood swings, great energy, lack of sleep, exhibition of risk taking behaviors and easy distractibility (St John-Larkin, 2016). There are many risk factors which are associated with depression combined with the symptoms of the two types of depression.
Teenagers who are stressed or those who show learning, attention, and conduct disorders have higher chances to develop depression. Teenage depression increase at a rate which calls for attention. Recent surveys shows that one out of five teens have clinical depression. Depression should be considered a serious condition that needs quick appropriate treatment (Maher, 2009). Diagnosis of depression among teenagers if difficult because it is expected for teenagers to be moody and also most teenagers lack the ability to express or to understand their feelings. Teenagers themselves may be unable to understand the symptoms of depression to seek for help.
Another health issue among teenagers is STDs caused by little germs or microorganism. The microorganisms are transferred from one person to the next through sexual openings of the body. The disease is common among teenage population. The case of one teenager is different from another because of existence of different types of sexually transmitted infections. According to statistics, the disease is widely spread. “…roughly one in seven teenagers currently has a sexually transmitted disease (STD)…” (McCoy et al. 2011, p. 26). Teens constitute the largest population with STDs. Sexually transmitted infection exhibit different forms, that is bacterial and viral STDs. Examples of bacterial infections include gonorrhea, Chlamydia and trichomoniasis and can be cures by use of various antibiotics. Viral infections include human papioma (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and herpes.
Unfortunately, these viral infections have no cure but can be manage by use of certain medications (Forman et al. 2008, p. 174). As the name suggests, sexually transmitted infections are transferred through unprotected intercourse even though it can be spread through other ways such as oral activity, rubbing and touching in some instances (Forman et al. 2008, p. 174). “STDs…Are caught through vaginal intercourse or through anal (rectal) or oral (mouth) sex” (Byers, 1999, p. 7). The disease can be spread through contact with infected blood despite it being spread majorly by contact with body fluids. The spread of STDs can be controlled through use of mechanical protection e.g. condoms. Unprotected intercourse put a person at risk of being infected. In instances where both partners engage in sexual act with each other throughout their lifetime, the possibility of being infected is minimal. The forms of STDs have different symptoms, with some having the same symptoms while others show no symptoms.
The most common health issues which are associated with STDs include inflammation of pelvic, abnormal discharge, and genital warts. . “Nearly one third of teens think they’d be able to tell if they had a STD without getting a test…. The majority of people with STDs show no visible symptoms” (Forman et al.2008, p. 172).
Teens struggle to accept their body image and lack self-acceptance, a condition which translates to malnutrition and dieting problems, eating disorders for example binge-eating disorder, anorexia and bulimia and use of steroid to have a masculine body (Omnigraphics, 2017). Teens who have changed their level of activity from active to “couch potatoes” constantly glued to video consoles or computer may develop conditions such as obesity, early onsets of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure at a tender age. Eating disorder is another major health issue among teenagers. Willful denial of oneself meals is influenced by “public figure” who have a body shape they admire and hence want to develop the same body shape. This is common among teenage girls.
Most people try to lose weight through cutting on diet but work 5% to 10% of the time. They put on more weight than before when they decide to quit a diet (Stice et al. 2005). According to statistics a large number of people especially women suffer from eating disorder. “One in four or five women and one in 10 men struggle with an eating disorder at some time in their life” (Stice et al. 2005). Eating disorder is common among women but men also have it. “Ten years ago, men accounted for only 10% of eating disorder cases, but recent studies show that 16% of patients are men, and that figure appears to be rising” (Pike & Dunne, 2015). Men also struggle to develop a “perfect figure” same as women but women constitute the majority with eating disorder.
Both women and men struggle to develop their idealized perfect body shape. Men need to gain weight for muscle building to have nice chest and arms but instead lose weight. Women on the other hand, cut on diet to lose weight to develop a “model figure” but gain weight instead. Therefore, their body looks worse and unhealthy. Those with eating disorder have low self-esteem (Pike & Dunne, 2015) and try hard to exercise more often. Eating disorders exist in different forms, with each disorder having its own habits and health issues. The most common eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia and overeating. Persons with anorexia tend to lose weight through denying themselves food and it result to serious health issues which can lead to death. Persons with bulimia on the other hand, eat large quantities of food at a go then they purge (get rid of food). Therefore their weight increase and decrease hence result into heart problems. Individuals who overeat are those who are unable to control their urge to eat (Stice et al. 2005).
Tobacco smoking has become a big straw for teens (TMW Media & Kanopy. 2018). Those teens develop a notion that cigarette smoking makes them adults. If they start smoking at an early age, the higher their chances of addiction and lung cancer. Statistics shows that more than 3200 people below the age of 18 start smoking each day. According to CDC (2012), 7% and 23% middle and high school students respectively use tobacco. On the other hand, DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) reports that about 2100 youth who occasionally smoke some daily. Majority of adults who smoke confess they started smoking at the age of 18 years. In the year 2010, about 70% of adult smokers said that they would wish to quit smoking. Research has shown that those who start smoking during puberty have difficulty to quit the habit
Teenagers, in most instances are healthy but annual checkups should be made to assess their mental and physical health. This allows discussion on safety, questioning, peer and family conflict, teenage pregnancies, school problems, alcohol and substance abuse, their nutrition and sexually transmitted infections. Prevention of any ailment is one step close to developing a health life. Teenagers are at a critical age in their lifetime and choices they make are likely to have an effect to their health. The greatest amount of change occurs in teens. When teens feel depressed, they encounter tough times in believing their outlook will improve. Professional treatment impacts greatly to their lives by putting them on track and make them have hope for the best in future. For teens who smoke, it is important to point out the harmful effects which are associated to use of tobacco. Even though the negative outcomes which are long term effects of smoking are the priority in the discussion about cigarette smoking, many teens concern themselves with short term effects hence it is important to emphasize on the immediate harm associated to tobacco.
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