London: Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have found that the two-third of young people are growing up in countries where preventable and treatable health problems like HIV/AIDS, early pregnancy, unsafe sex, depression, injury and violence are posing an ongoing threat to their health and well-being.
The findings should serve as a wake-up call for major new investment for the 1.8 billion adolescents worldwide -- the largest generation in history -- 89 percent of whom live in developing countries, said the authors of The Lancet commission report on adolescent health and wellbeing that was launched in London.
Their number is set to rise to about two billion by 2032.
"From a life-course perspective, adolescents stand at the crossroads of the major challenges to global health: HIV/AIDS, intention and unintentional injuries, sexual and reproductive health, and chronic disease," said John Santelli from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in the US.
Columbia University was one of four global academic institutions that led the Lancet commission.
"Investments in adolescent health have the potential to alter the future course of global health," Santelli noted.
In addition to these, adolescents are facing new challenges, including rising levels of obesity and mental health disorders, high unemployment and risk of radicalization, the report said.
The single best investment we can make is guaranteeing access to free, quality secondary education, according to the report. Every year of education beyond age 12 is associated with fewer adolescent deaths for boys and girls, the report noted.
Unsafe sex has become fastest-growing risk factor for ill health in both males and females aged 15-19 years old, rising from 13th place in 1990 to 2nd place in 2013.
Also, alcohol remains the world's leading risk factor for ill health in young adults aged 20-24 years responsible for seven percent of the disease burden.