One in three teens globally at risk of lifestyle diseases

One in three adolescents globally are at the risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cancer, with low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity as the most prominent risk factors, according to a study.

The researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia examined World Health Organization (WHO) data from 304,779 students aged 11-17 years from 89 countries. They found that 35 per cent of adolescents had three or more lifestyle risk factors.

According to Asad Khan, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, multiple risk factors increase the likelihood of poor health.

"NCDs, such as cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancers, are the leading causes of poor health and premature death, accounting for seven out of 10 deaths globally each year," Khan said.

"Low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity were the most prominent lifestyle risk factors for NCDs among adolescents," he said.

The researchers said overall, boys reported more lifestyle risk factors than girls.

Adolescents in the American region had the highest rate of risk factors – 56 per cent of American teens had three of more risk factors. "Smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet clustered in males, while physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour and poor diet clustered in females," Khan said.

He said smoking and alcohol were paired together in both sexes across all regions. Khan said the findings are of particular concern, as the precursors of NCDs are often manifested during childhood.

"Many of these behaviours acquired during adolescence tend to remain in adulthood, and exposure to each additional risk factor increases the future risk of poor health and premature death," Khan said.

"Early gender-specific prevention strategies targeting clusters of modifiable risk factors, customised for WHO regions, should be prioritised to help mitigate current and future burden of non-communicable diseases globally," he said.

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