Teenagers’ use of sexual health services: perceived need, knowledge and
ability to access
A. Parkes, D. Wight, M. Henderson
MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow,
Introduction: An individual teenager’s use of services may depend on
perceived need; on knowledge of sexual health and local services; and on ability
to access. This paper presents the first UK large-scale quantitative analysis of
these factors, comparing those who use services with those who do not.
Methods: 15/16 year olds were questioned about their use of sexual
health services in the SHARE trial of a school sex education programme in 25
schools in Lothian and Tayside, Scotland (N=5,747). Multilevel statistical
models examined the role of different factors in shaping patterns of service use.
Results: A third of teenagers had used a service, and use was strongly
related to sexual experience. In addition, some family influences and being a
school leaver were associated with service use, although we found no evidence
for class, ethnic or religious barriers to use. Proximity to specialist clinics
was linked with greater use, while low spending money and high parental
monitoring were associated with less use. Teenagers with better knowledge, who
rated their school sex education as effective, who were comfortable talking
about sex and who had discussed contraception with peers were more likely to
have used services. Differences in use related to sexual experience, knowledge,
feeling comfortable talking about sex and talking with peers helped to explain
gender differences in service uptake.
Conclusions: There is potential to influence service use through
better knowledge and confidence imparted through school sex education, and by
improving the links between services and schools.