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Medical News

Few Openly Gay Teens Tell Their Doctor: Survey

January 10, 2007

The majority of openly gay teens are not apt to freely discuss their sexuality their doctor, a recent study found.

In the study, researchers from RAND Corp. and the University of California-Los Angeles surveyed 131 lesbian, gay and bisexual teens ages 14-18 attending the "Models of Pride Youth Conference." Ninety percent had seen their doctor within the previous two years, and two-thirds had visited their physician within the past year.

Among those surveyed, 70 percent reported being "out" to everyone or nearly everyone they knew. But while 66 percent acknowledged it was important for their doctor to know about their sexual orientation, only 35 percent said their own physician knows they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. In cases where the teens had disclosed to their doctor, the doctor brought up the issue only 21 percent of the time. When asked what doctors could do to facilitate a discussion about sexuality, 64 percent of teens said, "Just ask me."

"We knew that the sample that we chose was going to be a very 'out' sample," Dr. Gareth D. Meckler of Portland's Oregon Health and Sciences University, said with respect to the conference attendees. "We figured they would have a higher disclosure rate than most youth."

As barriers to disclosure, the teens cited stigma, having a parent present in the examining room, fear the doctor would tell their parents, embarrassment, and fear of the doctor's disapproval.

"One of the strongest predictors of whether or not the teens disclosed their sexual orientation was whether the physician had discussed sex with them at all," said Meckler, a co-author. "Very few physicians were regularly discussing sexuality, even though sex is one of the major developmental challenges and health risks at that age."

The full report, "Nondisclosure of Sexual Orientation to a Physician Among a Sample of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth," was published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (2006;160(12):1248-1254).

Back to other news for January 10, 2007

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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