The state of youth: Is the health status of youth improving?

Research Report. Human Science Research Council

This paper examines the health status of South African youth in the past 15 years, using available quantitative data. Specific areas of interest include youth disability, substance abuse, sexual and reproductive behaviour, and HIV and AIDS. The paper also assesses the pattern of health status implied in official statistics on mortality among the youth. The analysis shows some evidence of behavioural change in aspects of sexual and reproductive health among young people. Emerging evidence suggests a declining trend in the rate of HIV prevalence among the youth since about 2005. The speed and age-specific patterns of this change are yet to be fully understood. Recent statistics show significantly higher HIV prevalence among young women than among young men; this gender gap remains a cause for concern in the fight against HIV and AIDS. There appear to be some gains in youth health that are translating into lower death rates. The genuineness of this potentially favourable trend will only be confirmed as more annual youth death statistics become available in the next few years. Ultimately, a good health profile is key to the active participation of the youth in the economy and society, now and in the future. Therefore, investing in the health of the youth should remain a national policy priority.