Suicide second in death rates for teenagers

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The Independent Online

Suicide is the second most common cause of death - disease apart - for European teenagers after road accidents, a study by the World Health Organisation reveals today.

Suicide is the second most common cause of death - disease apart - for European teenagers after road accidents, a study by the World Health Organisation reveals today.

More than a fifth of deaths of people in the 15 to 19 age group across the continent can be attributed to self-inflicted injuries, according to the study by a team of mainly Italian researchers, published in The Lancet.

Road traffic accidents account for 26 per cent of teenage deaths, but suicide accounts for 22.4 per cent, the report shows.Other causes of death from injury rather than disease include poisoning (11.2 per cent), violence by other people (10.9 per cent), drowning (5.5 per cent) and fire (3 per cent).

The figures are revealed in the Environmental Burden of Disease study, an examination of the impact of the environment on child health in the WHO European region. Its most remarkable conclusion is that one in three child deaths in Europe are due to environmental hazards. But the WHO definition of "Europe" includes the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

The researchers found that 100,000 deaths are caused every year by air pollution, unsafe water, lead poisoning and injuries to children and adolescents. This represents 34 per cent of deaths from all causes.

The vast majority of these fatalities are not in Western Europe and are due to respiratory infections caused by fuel burning in countries such as Kazakhstan, or gastro-intestinal infections caused by contaminated water in countries such as Romania. In Western Europe "injuries" account for most premature deaths. The suicide rate increases from south to north, with rates in Scandinavia three to four times as high as southern countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain.

Next week European health and environment ministers will meet in Budapest to draw up a plan to deal with the effects of the environment on child health.

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