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Doctors spend very little time talking about sex with teen patients, study argues

Doctor with teenage patient istock.jpg

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has revealed that many doctors spend very little time discussing sex with their teenage patients – if they do at all.

According to Counsel and Heal, researchers from Duke University analyzed the audio recordings of 253 annual doctors’ visits for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17.  They found that the doctors discussed sex in only 65 percent of the visits, with the conversations lasting an average of 36 seconds.  In the other 35 percent of visits, the topic of sex wasn’t brought up at all.

The study’s authors argue that such limited exchanges won’t help meet the “sexual health prevention needs of teens.”

"It's hard for physicians to treat adolescents and help  them make healthy choices about sex if they don't have these conversations," said lead author Stewart Alexander, associate professor of medicine at Duke. "For teens who are trying to understand sex and sexuality, not talking about sex could have huge implications."

The study also revealed that only 4 percent of the teenage patients had prolonged discussions about sex with their doctors.  Additionally, the female patients were twice as likely as their male counterparts to spend more time talking about sex.

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