Merck Manual

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Introduction to Problems in Adolescents

By

Sharon Levy

, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
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For most children, adolescence is a period of good physical health. The most common problems during adolescence relate to

Leading causes of death and disability among adolescents are

  • Motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries

  • Injuries resulting from interpersonal violence

During this phase of development, adolescents begin to transition from childhood to adulthood. Issues of independence, identity, sexuality, and relationships define this developmental stage. Mental health problems, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and thought disorders (such as schizophrenia) as well as psychosocial disorders, may develop or first become apparent during adolescence. Suicide is a major cause of death for this age group. Other causes of death include accidents, unintentional injuries, and homicide.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, most commonly develop during adolescence and are more common among girls. Many unhealthy behaviors that start during adolescence, such as consuming a poor diet (see Obesity in Adolescents), smoking, substance use, and violence, can lead to immediate health problems, long-term disorders, or poor health later in life.

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