Spotlight on NZ’s adolescent deathsNew Zealand’s high rate of youth mortality and suicide have been highlighted in a special ‘adolescent health’ issue of an international medical journal.The Lancet has published a four part Series on Adolescent Health to coincide with the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population Development in New York, which has an adolescent health theme.
An analysis of international of youth health indicators in the special issue ranked New Zealand very poorly in comparison to other developed countries. In terms of adolescents (defined as 10-24 years by the Lancet) dying from any cause, New Zealand ranked 2nd highest out of 27 developed countries, after the US. New Zealand also ranked 3rd highest in terms of females suicide rates and was ranked highest out of all 27 countries for male suicides.
This is not the first time New Zealand’s poor track record on youth mortality has been highlighted. Previous reports have also slammed New Zealand’s suicide rates and this week Associate Health Minister Hon Peter Dunne acknowledged that while New Zealand’s suicide rate was improving, it is still one of the worst in the OECD.
Prof Annette Beautrais, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, told the SMC:“While it is possible that New Zealand’s high ranking may reflect better accounting and reporting of deaths, enabled by a small population and a coronial inquest system for traffic and suspected suicide deaths, other countries have similar coronially-based mortality reporting systems (e.g. Australia, Canada, United Kingdom) and do not have youth mortality rates as high as those in New Zealand.
“A more likely explanation for New Zealand’s mortality may lie with New Zealand’s relatively low minimum legal drinking age of 18 years, which is likely to contribute to both suicide and traffic deaths.”But actual research from Wilkinson and Pickett “The Spirit Level” and others clearly show that our high suicide rate is because of our high income gaps Peter Malcolm
You can read more commentary and a round up of media coverage on the SMC website.