The least healthy age group is teenagers. In some ways, they are even less healthy than seniors, most of whom are at least addressing their health problems. Teens have more sexual diseases than any other group, as well as high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction. They also smoke more and eat unhealthy diets. There’s a plague of teenage obesity and Type II diabetes. Dr. Russell Viner, who specializes in adolescent medicine, says, “It seems that adolescents are the only group whose health is getting worse.”

In the U.K., one in five 15-year-olds is overweight. One-fifth of teens have psychological problems, such as depression or anorexia. Few exercise enough and many binge drink. Less than 15% of teens eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables and almost 25% smoke cigarettes. One in ten teenage girls may be infected with Chlamydia, which can lead to infertility.

In the New Scientist, Danny Penman quotes Viner as saying, “Better drugs are protecting older people from disease and vaccinations have brought huge improvements for infants, but for people in their teens, there are social health problems which mean worrying rates of accidents, suicide, drug use, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Government official Philip James says, “As a society we’ve abandoned any pretence of nurturing children in an appropriate environment. We’ve told them to eat what they like and do what they like and failed to inculcate them with good habits.”

Statistics in the U.K. mirror those here in the U.S., where soft drink companies pay schools to allow them to install vending machines and many teens rely on fast food for most of their meals. Also, in the U.S. we have a large number of Latino teens who are especially vulnerable to Type II diabetes, which is brought on by overweight. This is a disease that, until recently, was rarely seen in anyone younger than middle age.

There are some special children among us, and we need to learn to treasure them.

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