Adolescence and the Definition of Health by W.H.O.
Adolescence is a transition period from childhood to adulthood, which is generally characterized by good health. Nevertheless, it is a period with specific health challenges and developmental needs that differ from those of children and adults. Important changes take place such as physical - hormonal (i.e puberty, musculo – skeletal etc), neurodevelopmental (emotional responses, sleep regulation, cognitive capacities), psychological and social. These special characteristics are often related to the emergence of certain health issues and high risk behaviours in adolescence.
The most common health related issues observed in this specific age group (12 – 24 years) are:
·Accidents and injuries, both unintentional and self damage
·Mental health challenges, including depression feelings, and suicidal ideation, anxiety, low self esteem, anger management, violence etc
·Substance use and abuse
·Sexual health topics
·Eating disorders and physical condition extremes
The term «health» - definition
WHO’s constitution defines health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition, which includes the absence of disease or infirmity on the one hand and well-being on the other, is as relevant today as it was when it was formulated in 1948.
When referring to adolescent health, the concept of wellbeing is particularly important. Wellbeing relies on being well in every aspect– physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, sexually and spiritually. For any person, imbalance in one or more of these areas negatively affects wellbeing. Factors Influencing Health and Wellbeing include:
·Person related factors
Therefore, identifying and understanding the aforementioned factors and the adolescent health behaviours in general remains the key for developing appropriate policies and services - in order to promote wellbeing.
WHO puts a priority for adolescent health and encourages the development of adolescent friendly health services, to better meet the needs of teenagers, with qualitative dimensions: equitable, accessible, acceptable, appropriate and effective.
In Greece, adolescents (10- 18 of age) constitute 11% of the total population and just as in other western countries, they face the spectrum of youth’s health problems and experimental behaviours.
The teenage period - with all its peculiarities - presents special difficulties for those involved in health promotion and health services. Health workers feel uncomfortable and inadequate to deal with teenagers and often deal superficially with their problems.
It should also be kept in mind that adolescence is an age with many challenges in developing interpersonal relationships. The participation of health workers with appropriate knowledge and experience in the medical staff, may contribute to the limitation of the difficulties in patient- physician communication.
Most of the adolescents present symptoms related to physiological processes of puberty (e.g. acne, lack of iron, excessive stress etc). It is estimated that only 10-15% of adolescents suffer from a severe chronic illness (e.g. diabetes mellitus, cystic fibrosis) and need - in addition to monitoring from the panel of therapists - strong support during puberty in order to experience the changes as painless as possible and in a functional way.
An important fact is that about 2/3 of the problems observed during adolescence are preventable and curable and that many of future health adulthood conditions (e.g. obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancers, infertility) may be significantly reduced via health educating present adolescents. In addition, young people establish habits and knowledge that will determine future quality of life.