Health care information sources for adolescents: age and gender differences on use, concerns, and needs

Diann M. Ackard, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess adolescents' sources of health care information, explore beliefs about topics which health care providers should address and about those which have been addressed, and identify topics that are embarrassing for adolescents to discuss with providers. Methods: Participants included a nationally representative sample of 3153 boys and 3575 girls in 5th through 12th grades who completed the Commonwealth Fund survey. Data were analysed by inspection of percentages and bivariate associations. Results: Boys (41.7%) and girls (58.4%) identified their mother as the primary resource for health care information. Younger boys and girls (grades five and six) were more likely than older boys and girls (grades 10 to 12) to ask their mother first about health issues (boys 54.4% vs. 35.2%; girls 71.7% vs. 46.4%). Doctors, nurses, or school nurses were also frequently identified as the first person asked about health issues (boys 23.9%, girls 18.2%). Most adolescents indicated that providers should address the following topics: drugs (65.0%); smoking (58.5%); sexually transmitted diseases (61.4%); alcohol use (56.2%); and good eating behaviors (56.8%). However, fewer adolescents reported that providers have actually discussed these issues with them; only 23.1% to 34.2% of adolescents reported having discussed the first four topics with them. Many youth noted that it would be embarrassing for them to discuss these issues with their providers. Conclusions: Adolescents report that parents and health care providers are key sources of health-related information. Although adolescents may be embarrassed having discussions with their health care providers, adolescents do believe that these topics should be addressed. Adolescents' embarrassment about discussing sensitive health topics highlights the importance of providers initiating and facilitating these discussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this article was supported in part by the Training Program in Behavioral Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease Grant T32HL07328 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) (DMA). The authors would like to thank the Commonwealth Fund for use of the data.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adolescents
  • Gender differences
  • Health care providers
  • Health issues


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