2009 UN estimates place Cameroon's population at 19,522,000. The population is young: an estimated 40.9% are under 15, and 96.7% are under 65. The birth rate is estimated at 34.1 births per 1,000 people, the death rate at 12.2. The life expectancy is 53.69 years (52.89 years for males and 54.52 years for females).
Cameroon's population is almost evenly divided between urban and rural dwellers. Population density is highest in the large urban centers, the western highlands, and the northeastern plain. Douala, Yaoundé, and Garoua are the largest cities. In contrast, the Adamawa Plateau, southeastern Bénoué depression, and most of the South Cameroon Plateau are sparsely populated.
The quality of health care is generally low. Outside the major cities, facilities are often dirty and poorly equipped. Endemic diseases include dengue fever, filariasis, leishmaniasis, malaria, meningitis, schistosomiasis, and sleeping sickness.
The HIV/AIDS seroprevalence rate is estimated at 5.4% for those aged 15–49, although a strong stigma against the illness keeps the number of reported cases artificially low. Traditional healers remain a popular alternative to Western medicine.
Most children have access to free, state-run schools or subsidised, private and religious facilities. The educational system is a mixture of British and French precedents with most instruction in English or French. Cameroon has one of the highest school attendance rates in Africa. Girls attend school less regularly than boys do because of cultural attitudes, domestic duties, early marriage and pregnancy, and sexual harassment. Although attendance rates are higher in the south, a disproportionate number of teachers are stationed there, leaving northern schools chronically understaffed.
Six state-run universities serve Cameroon's student population. More than 60,000 students were enrolled for the 1998–1999 school year. A council of deans, school directors, and representatives of state ministries governs the schools under the leadership of a vice-chancellor. State funding for universities is low, and student registrations nominally make up 25% of the higher education budget. However, students have fought these fees since their introduction in 1993.
Universities have resisted the urge to increase the selectiveness of admissions in an effort to increase revenue from student fees, and the student populations have increased well beyond the 5,000 they were built to educate. Likewise, cuts in faculty salaries in 1993 made it difficult to find and keep qualified staff.
Cameroon has a high level of religious freedom and diversity. Christians are concentrated chiefly in the southern and western regions, and Muslims reside in large numbers in every region but are concentrated in the north. There is significant internal migration. There are currently no active Islamic political parties. Large cities have significant populations of both groups, with mosques and churches often located near each other.
The two Anglophone regions of the west are largely Protestant, and the francophone regions of the southern and western regions are largely Catholic. Southern ethnic groups predominantly follow Christian or animist beliefs, or a syncretic combination of the two. People widely believe in witchcraft, and the government outlaws such practices. Suspected witches are often subject to mob violence.
In the northern regions, the locally dominant Fulani (or Peuhl) ethnic group is mostly Muslim, although some ethnic groups retain native animist beliefs and are called Kirdi ("pagan") by the Fulani. The U.S. Department of State claims that some Muslims discriminate against Christians and followers of traditional beliefs in the north. The Bamum ethnic group of the West Region is largely Muslim. Traditional indigenous religious beliefs are practiced in rural areas throughout the country but rarely are practiced publicly in cities, in part because many indigenous religious groups are intrinsically local in character.