American Teens: Live Fast, Die Hard

The teenage years should come with a warning label:  Being an American teen may case early death.

At least, that's the gist of a new study published in the British medical Journal "Lancet." The study of teenage behavior in developed, higher income countries, indicates that U.S. teens tend to live faster and die harder than kids of the same age in other countries.

Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, smoke more pot, drink nearly as much alcohol and are more likely to die violent deaths, compared to young people in the same age group around the globe.

This is the second in Lancet's "Adolescent Health Series," which examines challenges and problems faced by 1.8 billion young people in the world. The medical journal says time has come to "put the young person, not the specific issue, center stage."  The Series editors say adolescent health is still a "marginalized sub-specialty" that must be elevated into "mainstream global health agendas."

Binge drinking among young people, according to the study, is most prevalent in Austria and Ireland, with the U.S. not far behind.

"The drinking patterns of USA adolescents are catching up" with those in other countries, according to the paper, written by George C. Patton, professor at the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and Claudia Cappa, of UNICEF, in New York.

Most of those American binge drinkers are too young to drink legally and the study finds that more girls in the U.S., ages 13-15 years old, drink excessively than their peers anywhere else in the world. Having five or more alcoholic drinks in a single day is considered binge drinking.

Violent death also stalks U.S. teenagers far more often than teens elsewhere, data from the Lancet suggests. According to the study, 17 out of every 100,000 teenage boys between the ages of 15 and 19 are killed by violence in the U.S.. Israel and Switzerland have the next highest rate: 4 per 100,000 each.

Doctors and nurses in trauma centers and emergency rooms say many teen deaths are alcohol related. One trauma nurse tells ABC News, when "alcohol (is) on board…we got knives pulled. We got guns pulled. And then we have violence."

Despite all those statistics, and despite wide-spread obesity in the U.S., the Lancet study finds, somewhat curiously, that American teens exercise as much, or more, than young people in any other country in the study.

Lancet, a British medical journal, included 16 counties in the study, but not Great Britain.