CHAPEL HILL - Each year, one in five U.S. teen-agers doesn't receive health care when he or she thinks it's needed, according to the nation's largest study of adolescent behavior. The study's lead researcher called the findings "worrisome."
Lack of health insurance, dealing with confusing health-care systems, being older and belonging to a minority group are among factors boosting the risk of what doctors term "foregone care."
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research involved analyzing responses to questions asked of 20,000 U.S. teens in 1995 about their behavior and attitudes as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, also known as the Add Health study. Participants were in grades 7 through 12 when asked to enter responses into computers to ensure confidentiality.
"The Add Health survey included questions designed to find out how commonly adolescents consider seeking health care but do not go to doctors or other health care professionals," said Dr. Carol A. Ford, assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at the UNC-CH School of Medicine. "We also wanted to find out whether this was a problem or not. Were these kids really at risk of having health problems or were they basically healthy?"
A report Ford and colleagues wrote about the study appears in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Co-authors are Drs. Peter Bearman, formerly professor of sociology at UNC-CH and now director of the Institute for Social and Economic Theory and Research at Columbia University, and James Moody, formerly at UNC-CH and now assistant professor at Ohio State University. Dr. J. Richard Udry, professor of sociology and of maternal and child health at the UNC-CH School of Public Health, directs the Add Health study.
"In general, we found that adolescents who did not go for health care were not the 'worried well,'" Ford said. "They were kids who engaged in behaviors that put them at signific
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill