Measuring Impact: Health Risks and Disease

Authors: George Patton, Peter Azzopardi, Elissa Kennedy, Carolyn Coffey, Ali Mokdad


Adolescents are commonly viewed as healthier than other age groups (Sawyer and others 2012). Many positive attributes of health peak in adolescence, and these positive attributes predict health in later life. Physical fitness peaks around the age of 20 and remains high until the early 30s, declining steadily through to old age (Rockwood, Song, and Mitnitski 2011). Persons with the highest fitness levels in their 20s are more likely to stay physically healthy throughout life and to need fewer health services as they age (Rockwood, Song, and Mitnitski 2011). Adolescent cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and body composition are also predictive of lower all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease in later life (Ruiz and others 2009). Bone mineral density, a primary determinant of osteoporosis and its complications, also peaks in the late teens to early 20s (Baxter-Jones and others 2011). In the two years of peak skeletal growth, adolescents accumulate more than 25 percent of their adult bone, with physical activity and nutrition important modifiable influences (Julián-Almárcegui and others 2015; Whiting and others 2004).