Teens underestimate the importance of health care

Teens underestimate the importance of health care

As many as one in five teenagers don’t get needed medical care, putting their future health at risk, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics.

Those who did not receive necessary medical care reported their health as fair to poor as adults. They also suffered more physical limitations in completing regular daily tasks, and experienced higher rates ofdepressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts, according to the study.

The researchers used data from 14,800 people collected as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Participants averaged 16 years of age when they answered the first questionnaire and about 27 years at the second.

“Life-long health begins at birth, but the teen years are especially impactful,” says Dr. Tonja Austin, a family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Research has shown that people establish their feelings about health and wellness and develop habits around seeking medical care during this time. And these are habits we carry with us for the rest of our lives.”

The reasons teens avoid medical care include cost, access to adequate care and concerns about confidentiality, according to researchers. The data also showed that teens are prone to underestimating the importance of treatment and, thus, ignore health issues that need to be addressed.

“Identifying and addressing risk factors for chronic health issues early is important for keeping people well. This preventative maintenance is key to combating premature physical and mental decompensation. Illnesses that commonly manifest during adolescence, like mental disorders, can grow dire if left untreated,” says Dr. Austin. “Building strong relationships with teens can help improve communication and help them find their way to the care they need.”

The Office on Adolescent Health offers parents these tips for supporting their teens’ health, wellness and development:

  • Ensure your adolescent receives medical and dental care, as well as mental and behavioral health services as needed
  • Learn what to expect with your adolescent’s development
  • Start and keep the conversations going
  • Be a good role model
  • Encourage physical activity, sleep, and healthy eating
  • Prepare adolescents for managing their health as they move toward adulthood
  • Make time for the adolescents in your life

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.