In 2020 the World Health Organization established the Headquarters Interdepartmental Technical Working Group on Adolescent Health and Well-being. The aim of the group is to act as a mechanism for coordinating initiatives related to adolescent health within WHO HQ, and ensure effective internal and external communication, coordination and collaboration.
One of the joint products of the group is a biennial report about WHO work for adolescent health.
The first of these reports has just been released under the title “Working for a Brighter, Healthier Future”. The report also addresses alcohol harm affecting adolescents.
Alcohol use is identified as one of the leading health issues for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, along with other health issues such as tobacco use, unsafe sex, road injuries, poor diet, inadequate physical activity, diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and mental disorders.
The global report presents a comprehensive picture of the effect of alcohol use on population and adolescent health and the best ways to protect and promote their health and well-being. It also indicates the levels and patterns of alcohol consumption worldwide, the health and social consequences of alcohol use and how countries are working to reduce the burden.
Worldwide, 26.5% of all 15 to 19-year-olds currently use alcohol. The Global Alcohol Status report 2018 and the Global Health Observatory provide data on alcohol-related indicators for adolescents.
Triple divident benefits of investing in adolescent health
The report emphasizes that every dollar invested in adolescent health (including reducing alcohol use and related harms) has an estimated 10-fold health, social and economic return.
Furthermore, the investment yields a “triple dividend”:
- Benefits for adolescents now,
- Benefits for adolescents’ future adult lives, and
- Benefits for adolescents’ future children.
As the report shows, investing in alcohol prevention and treatment of alcohol problems can help adolescents now. Reducing adolescent exposure to alcohol harm can help them to lead a healthy lifestyle in the future, thereby reducing sickness, death and disability once adolescents reach adulthood. Preventing risk factors such as alcohol use in adolescence has far reaching benefits for the next generation, when the present adolescents become adults and have their own children.