Epidemiological information about detailed patterns of physical morbidity within the adolescent age group is not generally available. To illustrate the distinctive patterns of morbidity indicated by the use of hospital inpatient care, hospital admission rates in the Oxford region (1979-86) were analysed at each single year of age from 10 to 19 years. At the age of 10 years 22% of general hospital admissions were to paediatrics, 24% to general surgery, 23% to ear, nose, and throat surgery, and 20% to trauma and orthopaedics. By 14 years of age only 6% of general hospital admissions were to paediatrics. By 16 years of age 24% of general hospital admissions of young women were to gynaecology and 40% of admissions of young men were to trauma and orthopaedics. The most common reason for hospital admission in young men was head injury and the second most common was appendicectomy. Termination of pregnancy was the single most common reason for admission for girls aged 15 and 16 years; childbirth and terminations were the most common reasons for admission in girls aged 17-19 years and over. Self poisoning was also common in older teenage girls. Younger girls were admitted most commonly for tonsillectomy. Most admissions of adolescents are thus for surgical rather than medical reasons and some of the most common individual reasons for admission are attributable to behavioural factors rather than disease processes.
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