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Population size and mortality

Children and young people aged 10-24 account for 18% of the whole population of the UK.  The most common causes of death include accidents, self-harm and assault, and cancer.

11.8m young people in the UK between 10-24

Life expectancy and mortality

Adolescence is a generally healthy age period and relatively few young people die between the ages of 10-24. The annual number of young people dying in this age group in the UK in recent years has generally fallen between 2,000 and 3,000 (Office for National Statistics, 2018).  This represents a very small proportion (less than 1%) of all deaths each year.

Age specific mortality rates are adjusted for differences in the size of the population in different age groups.  Age specific rates are expressed as the number of deaths per 1000 of population in the age group in question. Overall, males age 10-24 have higher mortality rates than females, and 15-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds have higher rates than 10-14 year olds. However, mortality rates for young people in these age groups did not exceed 0.5 per 1000 population. In comparison, the rate for people aged 65-70 was 15.8.

Very few young people die, but as they grow up the rate increases and proportionally more males than females die

Until recently there had been a longterm trend of falling age specific mortality rates for all age groups under 24 years. Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study (Global Health Data Exchange, 2018; Hagell and Shah, 2019) show mortality rates (per 100,000 young people) for 10-24 year olds falling consistently until 2015.  After this the trend is less clear and there have been some slight rises for 20-24 year olds in some years.

Mortality rates for 10-24 year olds fell consistently until 2015.  Over the next four years the trend was less clear

The most common causes of death for all young people 10-24 are those described as external (including accidents, self-harm and assault) and cancer.  As young people get older, the number of deaths from external causes increases.  Altogether, 56% of the deaths to 10-24 year olds in 2019 were due to external causes, a significant proportion of which could be considered preventable through good quality health care and wider public health interventions.   

The most common causes of death of 10-24 year olds are classified as external as they are not caused by illness (2019)

The most common external causes of death for young people age 10-24 are accidents and intentional self harm.  Other external causes include traffic accidents, exposure to noxious substances, assault, drowning and falls.  The pattern is similar for males and females although rates of death are higher in young men. Legislation and effective implementation may help to reduce deaths caused by accidents in young people (Wolfe et al., 2014; Patton et al., 2016). Consideration of how to reduce preventable deaths caused by self-harm is also important in the face of emerging evidence of possible rises in mental health problems in this age group.

The most common external cause of mortality for 10-24 year olds is accidents, followed by self harm (2019)

The mortality rates per 100,000 population for young people aged 10-24 vary across high income countries. In 2019 the UK’s rates fell roughly in the middle of the range with the USA and New Zealand at the top end and Denmark and the Netherlands at the lowest end.

All cause mortality rates for 10-24 year olds vary across the European OECD countries (2019)

All data correct as at 1 November 2021