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J Adolesc Health. 2007 Jul;41(1):61-8. Epub 2007 Apr 19.

Adolescents' beliefs about preferred resources for help vary depending on the health issue.

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  • 1Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.



Adolescents' health care use is less than ideal, especially for more sensitive services. We know little about adolescents' preferred resources for help for health-related issues, and whether these resources vary by problem type. This study examined whether adolescents' preferred resources for help differed depending on the health issue studied.


Two hundred ten high school students (54% females; 76.6% participation rate) completed a self-administered survey of four separate age- and gender-specific health case scenarios: an adolescent who has symptoms of pneumonia; smokes five cigarettes daily; plans to initiate sex; and has symptoms of depression. For each health scenario, participants rated the importance of getting help in general, how important it was to get help from specific resources (friends/siblings; significant adults; health care professionals; and mental health professionals), and highest rankings of specific resources.


Most adolescents believed it somewhat or very important to get help in general for all scenarios (94% pneumonia; 81% cigarette; 88% depression) except the sex scenario (27%). Repeated measures analysis of variance revealed significant differences in participants' beliefs in the importance of getting help from each specific resource across the four scenarios (all p < .001). Participants' top ranked resources included a doctor (55%) and parents (40%) for the pneumonia scenario; a friend (31%), parents (20%), and doctor (20%) for the cigarette scenario; a partner (38%) and friend (35%) for the sex scenario; and a partner (33%), psychologist (23%), and friend (20%) for the depression scenario. Beliefs in the importance of getting help from specific resources also varied by age, gender, and beliefs in importance of getting help in general.


Adolescents' preferred resources for help differ depending on the health issue in question, with adolescents preferring informal resources (friends and partners) and significant adults (parents) to go to for help for nonphysical health-related issues and physicians for physical health-related issues. Future preventive service efforts and research should also consider the importance of age and gender when examining adolescents' preferred resources for help.

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