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Benefits of Western Life *LINK*

Melanie Sully

The World Health Organization says the health of young people throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia is suffering, as they are increasingly exposed to the so-called "benefits" of western life.
The European Committee of the WHO concluded a week-long session in Vienna to discuss the increasing health problems of young people in Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, Turkey, the Caucasus and central Asia.

More than 300 representatives from 52 countries paid special attention to the increasing problems faced by children and adolescents related to alcohol and drug abuse and smoking, as well as behaviour problems and violence.

Studies show that people under 30 account for 84 percent of new cases of HIV-AIDS in the eastern half of Europe, compared with 30 percent in the west. The regional director for Europe, Marc Danzon, says young East Europeans are beginning to "catch up" with problems long apparent in the more affluent west.

"There is a growing concern in all Eastern Europe with drug addiction and with HIV-AIDS linked to drug addiction, often, not exclusively, but often," he said.

Mr. Danzon says the economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics cannot cope, and many people do not get the treatment they need. But studies show that mentally ill youngsters in the West are also often neglected and receive little support.

Suicides among young people are highest in the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The organization says more research is needed to address these issues.

The WHO plans a major ministerial conference in Finland in 2005 to draw up a pan-European action plan on mental health.

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