Most US Teens Avoid Talking About Sex, Mental Health, and Abuse With Doctors

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Wondering what your teen’s talking about with their doctor behind closed doors? Probably not sexual or mental health, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Fewer than one-half of American young people in the United States are raising sensitive issues with their health care providers, say the researchers at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. They suggest that changing health care delivery practices (for example, making sure to discuss confidentiality with patients) may improve conversation between teens and their doctors.

The researchers asked 1,509 people aged 13 to 26 whether they had brought up 11 specific topics with their doctors. Among the topics, which are recommended by national medical guidelines, were:

Gun safety, sexual orientation, and sexual or physical abuse were the topics least often discussed, according to the study.

Certain health care delivery practices were associated with an increase of at least 50 percent in the likelihood that a doctor and young person had these types of discussions:

  • Making sure young people have private time with their provider during office visits
  • Using health screening questionnaires
  • Ensuring that young patients understand that doctor-patient communications are confidential
  • Allowing enough time during visits.

Source: Pediatrics