Tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, lack of exercise, and unhealthy dietary habits typically take root in adolescence or young adulthood and are key risk factors for developing the main noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) later in life—notably, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, and cancers. NCDs are a growing problem in every region of the world; the four risk behaviors are already at high levels or are increasing among youth, including in many low- and middle-income countries.

School-based education and behavioral change programs are lowering tobacco and alcohol use in some settings. Policy interventions, such as taxation and advertising bans for tobacco products, have also been positive. Addressing youth risk behaviors is key to curbing a growing NCD epidemic in low- and middle-income countries and supporting youth to become healthy adults who contribute to the sustainable development of their countries.

Explore this and other data affecting youth in our 2017 World Population Data Sheet. You can read more about youth and NCDs in our reports on the epidemic in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.