Teen Health Risks

Teenagers today are exposed to more risks than ever before. From online bullying and school shootings to alcohol and opioid abuse, teens have higher levels of stress than in years past and increasing rates of suicide.

For parents and caregivers, this means having difficult conversations with their increasingly independent children about making smart choices about health and safety. If you’re one of those caregivers, arm yourself with facts about the top 10 teen health issues as well as resources to help navigate the stormy waters of adolescence.

Automobile Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every day seven teens between the ages of 16 and 19 die from motor vehicle injuries and even more are treated in emergency rooms for serious injuries.1

Before your teen gets behind the wheel, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to teen car accidents. These include:

  • Inexperience: Teens are less able to recognize dangerous situations and have less-developed driving reflexes than more experienced drivers. 
  • Speeding: Teens are more likely to speed and to drive too closely to the car in front of them.
  • Seat-belt use: Fewer than 60% of high school students wear seat belts every time they get in a car. In fact, among young drivers who died in car accidents in 2017, about half were not wearing a seat belt.
  • Drunk driving: Statistics show one in six teens have ridden in a car with a driver who is under the influence of alcohol and that 1 in 20 admits to getting behind the wheel after drinking.


Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents. Between 2007 and 2017, rates of teen suicide increased by 56%.2 Statistics show that roughly 1 in 11 high school students attempt suicide.

Contributing factors for suicide include loneliness, depression, family problems, and substance use disorder. The issues are complex and aren’t usually a result of one or two factors. Teens who have good communication with at least one adult are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and less likely to become depressed.

Learn to recognize the warning signs of suicidal thoughts in teens, which include:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increasing anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increasing anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

If you suspect your child may be thinking of harming themself, ask if they are having thoughts of suicide, express your concerns about their behavior, listen attentively without judgment, let them know they have been heard and are not alone, and guide them to professional help.

Gun Violence

While school shootings get ta lot of news attention, they make up just 1.2% of firearm fatalities in school-aged children. Gang violence and drive-by shootings are a problem in many cities in the United States. Black children and teens are more than 8 times more likely to die from firearm homicide than their white counterparts.

Regardless of your personal stance on guns, it is important to talk to your children about gun safety. If you keep firearms in your home, be sure to keep them locked up and unloaded.

Research shows roughly 1 in 3 handguns is kept loaded and unlocked in the home and most children know where their parents keep their guns.6 The majority of firearm injuries and deaths in children and adolescents are related to guns in the home. Read More

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