New insights into adolescence

Burnet Institute

22 February, 2018

Image: Dr Peter Azzopardi, Burnet Institute Co-Head of Adolescent Health

A child’s growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of its parents long before pregnancy – even going back to adolescence – according to a new paper co-authored by Burnet Institute Co-Head of Adolescent Health, Dr Peter Azzopardi.

The article in the latest edition of Nature argues that tackling health problems including obesity, mental health, poor nutrition and substance abuse in young people before they become parents is essential for the best possible start to life for their future children.

Dr Azzopardi said young women and men often carry lifestyle and health risks from adolescence into pregnancy, even if this happens in their 20s or 30s.

Lead author, Professor George Patton from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne said: “The first 1000 days of a child’s life are crucially important, but that is too late to be taking action.”

“Health and lifestyle in the months immediately before pregnancy matter for both young mothers and fathers-to-be.

“We need the health service system to be engaged before pregnancy – and it should go beyond its current focus on contraception to tackle broader health risks and emotional wellbeing in both young women and men.”

The paper brought together data from around 200 countries and from more than 140 recent research papers, and highlighted three main areas for action in adolescence in high- and middle-income countries: mental health, obesity and substance abuse.

For many lower income countries, the paper recommended major actions around ending child marriage, delaying first pregnancy through contraception and girls staying in school, and tackling under-nutrition.

The authors also argued that the age of adolescence should be expanded to range from 10 to 24 because of physical and neurological growth that continues into the 20s, combined with social changes such as the later adoption of adult roles.

Download the Nature paper here.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Associate Professor Peter Azzopardi

Co-Head of Adolescent Health


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