Adolescents' health beliefs are critical in their intentions to seek physician care

Arik V. Marcell, Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The examination of predictors of adolescents' intentions to use health care for different types of health issues has received little attention. This study examined adolescents' health beliefs and how they relate to intentions to seek physician care across different types of health problems. Methods. 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 seriousness of the health problem, physician effectiveness, and intentions to seek physician care. Results. Most adolescents believed all health problems were serious except for planning to initiate sex (P < 0.001). Adolescents believed that physicians were most effective in diagnosis and treatment for pneumonia, followed by cigarette use, depression, and sex, respectively (P's < 0.001). Adolescents' intentions to seek physician care were greatest for physical as compared to risk behavior or mental health problems (P < 0.001). Multiple regression analyses revealed that adolescents had greater intentions to seek physician care for cigarette, sex, and depression when they believed physicians were effective and they perceived these as health problems after controlling for age and gender (all P's < 0.001). Conclusions. Health beliefs explained 12% to 49% of the variance in intentions to seek care (all P's < 0.001). Adolescents' health beliefs are important when understanding intentions to seek physician care. Health care use may be improved by increasing adolescents' beliefs that physicians are effective in areas other than physical health, including risk behaviors and mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-125
Number of pages8
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Health care seeking
  • Preventive services
  • Risk behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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