High time India invests in its demographic dividend

The Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Well-being report launched in London on Tuesday highlights just how fragile the state of India’s demographic dividend is.

The report says that suicides are the leading cause of death among people in the 10-24 years category, with nearly 63,000 deaths reported in 2013 alone.

This is one-third of India’s population that we are talking about – a group that many take pride in as a demographic dividend. Clearly, it is crying out for help.

We don’t need to look too far for the red flags. Newspapers, of late, have been flooded with reports of the spate of student suicides in Kota. Since 2015, 26 youngsters, boys and girls, have killed themselves, either because they cannot cope with the burden of studies or feel pushed into career choices by parents.

The district collector has written to the parents of the over 1.5 lakh students living here asking them not to place the burden of their expectations on their kids.

The study author has said the findings should be a “wake up call for new investment in the largest generation of adolescents in the world’s history.” Because this is an age group that is seen as the healthiest, it also has the poorest health-care coverage amongst any age group.

The warning signs are especially strong when it comes to mental health. The report says that in India over 28 lakh youth have suffered health losses due to depressive disorders, an aspect that is particularly neglected.

Suicides due to academic pressure or employment concerns are a major part of the problem, one that the government needs to address by creating more job opportunities.

Equally important is the need to find ways to equip our youth emotionally. Adolescents today face challenges on many fronts and there is a need to acknowledge this and work towards finding a solution to this tragic ending of so many young lives.

 

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