Top Health Risks for Young Adults

Accidents Are the Leading Cause of Death; Long-Term Health Risks Include Smoking, Obesity, Inactivity

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on February 18, 2009

Feb. 18, 2009 -- Youth is often painted as a time of picture-perfect health, but that's not necessarily reality, a new CDC report shows.

The CDC today released its latest roundup of U.S. health statistics, with a special focus on young adults 18-29.

Highlights of the findings on young adults include:

  • Top cause of death: Unintentional injuries, which killed about 40 per 100,000 young adults in 2005.
  • Smoking: 29% of men and 21% of women 18-29 smoke cigarettes as of 2006.
  • Obesity: 24% of young adults are obese, and 28% more are overweight but not obese as of 2005-2006. Obesity rates for young adults tripled between 1971-1974 and 2005-2006.
  • Regular physical activity: Only 36% of young adults get regular physical activity in their spare time as of 2005-2006. That's better than the rate for older adults but below national goals.
  • Strength training at least twice per week: Done by only 26% of young adults in 2005-2006.
  • No health insurance: About a third of young adults 20-24 were uninsured in 2006.

The new CDC report, which is more than 600 pages long, isn't only about young adults. Here's a quick look at some of the health stats for the nation as a whole:

  • Life expectancy is up. As the CDC first reported last year, life expectancy for babies born in 2006 is 78.1 years, a record high. Life expectancy is still lower for men than for women and for African-Americans than for whites, but those gaps are narrowing. And among 37 countries and territories that submitted life expectancy data in 2004, the U.S. ranked 23rd for men and 25th for women (Hong Kong was No. 1 for men and Japan was No. 1 for women.)
  • Top causes of death: Deaths from heart disease, stroke, and cancer continue to drop but are still the nation's top three causes of death.
  • Obesity: Still rising, but more slowly than in past decades. More than one-third of adults aged 20 and older are obese as of 2005-2006.
  • Aging: People aged 75 and older made up 6% of the national population in 2006 and their ranks will double by 2050, the CDC predicts.