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Teenage Patients and Their Doctors Missing Out On Opportunities to Discuss Sex

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Teens Not Honest With Doctors About Sexual Behavior

Perhaps not surprisingly, teenagers are commonly not honest with their doctors about their sexual behavior.  Clearly, divulging this type of information can be embarrassing at best or cause serious trouble with parents at the worst.  However, keeping sexual behavior a secret can spell big trouble for teens, including lack of knowledge about contraceptives that could prevent unintended pregnancies or STDs and STIs.  But maybe it’s up to doctors to probe for this information–at least that’s what one study argues.

Doctors Fail to Talk to Teen Patients About Sex

It’s not just teens that aren’t talking to their doctors about sex, it’s doctors, too.  In fact, in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that doctors don’t talk to their young patients about sex and when they do, the conversations are short.  The study was conducted on 253 teens and 49 doctors from 11 clinics in the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina area.  One-third of teens in the study did not talk to their doctors about sex, including asking questions or discussing their sexual behavior, dating, sexual identity or sexuality.

Talks About Sex Extremely Short Between Doctors and Teen Patients

The study did find, however, that sex did come up in conversation in 65% of the doctor visits.  These conversations were exceedingly short, lasting less than 36 seconds.  Furthermore, the researchers also found that Asian doctors were less likely than other doctors to discuss sex with their patients.  Positive news derived from the study was that longer or more confidential appointments led to discussions about sex between doctors and patients much more frequently.  Overall, the findings suggest that doctors are missing prime opportunities to educate teens on safe sexual practices and the consequences of risky sexual behavior.