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In a complete reversal of a 50-year trend, more youngsters are now dying globally than toddlers.

In a first-of-its-kind study — published in the British medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday — it quantifies the patterns of death in children over five years old from 50 countries during the second half of the 20th century. It has been found that death rates in young people (15-24 years) are now higher than children (1-4 years) across most high and low-income countries. Death rates in young men (15-24 years) are two to three times higher than boys (1-4 years).

The majority of deaths in young people are due to injury, limiting improvements in mortality in this age-group over the past 50 years to just half that of children.

Russell Viner from UCL Institute of Child Health, London, and his colleagues said, "A strong international focus on reducing mortality in children below five years has not been matched by a similar response in older groups even though more than two-fifths of the world's population is in the 5-24 year age group."

The findings showed that in the 1950s, mortality in the 1-4 age-group greatly exceeded in all the regions studied. Death rates in children, aged 1-9, declined by 80-93% due to a drop in mortality from infectious diseases in 2004.

Decrease in death in young people, aged 15-24 years, was only about half of that in children. This is largely because of increase in injury-related deaths, particularly, of young men. By the start of the 21st century, injuries were responsible for 70-75% of all deaths in young men aged 10-24 years.

The research also showed that violence and suicide have become key causes of death in young people, responsible for a quarter to a third of deaths in young men aged 10-24 years.

The authors pointed out, "The high injury burden in young people means that they are particularly affected by the persistent low global investment in non-communicable diseases and injury relative to global disease burden."

They concluded, "Future global health targets should include the causes of death in people aged 10-24 years."


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