SHEU: Docvisits

SHEU : nationally-recognised, since 1977,
as the specialist provider of reliable local survey data about young people's health and wellbeing


Since 1977 the Schools Health Education Unit have been asking young people about their health and wellbeing.

Fewer young people are now feeling at ease
when visiting the doctor (see Table 2)

The results from the Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire (HRBQ) are used by local authorities to inform their planning. Among the many topics that are explored in the surveys is the issue of visiting the doctor [Results from 2012]. Questions about visiting the doctor have been asked in schools from the early 1980s. Responses from over 400,000 12-15 year olds cover issues about frequency of visits and feeling at ease ...

How long ago did you last visit the doctor? ... On this last visit, did you feel at ease with the doctor?

Are the numbers going up or down? Since 1999 the percentage of those visiting the doctor in the past month are:

Table 1.
Visit GP in past month
12-13 yr old Boys 26 27 29
12-13 yr old Girls 28 26 32
14-15 yr old Boys 26 21 28
14-15 yr old Girls 31 29 34

Gender and age differences are generally small but consistent; girls have usually been visiting more frequently than boys.

Around 50% report having visited their GP within 'the past 3 months'.
Are GPs aware of these, perhaps surprisingly high, frequencies of attendance? In the 1990s, an opportunity arose to check young people's reports of GP attendance. A practising doctor from Barnham was presented, at a meeting, with results of the HRBQ survey in West Sussex and thought that the rates shown for Year 8 and Year 10 pupils visiting the doctor were implausibly high. He immediately organised a check on his figures, and a colleague searched the computer files from the group practice. He was astonished to find that in his practice the GPs had seen 40% of their patients aged between 13 and 19 in the past three months, which fitted within the SHEU summary data for the whole District Health Authority (Letter from Dr Wallis, 1993, Education and Health, 11:1,13).

Feeling at ease when visiting the doctor
The table below shows results, from 1991-2012, of those pupils who felt at ease with the GP.

Table 2.
Visit GP and felt at ease
12-13 yr old Boys 64 57 44
12-13 yr old Girls 48 40 30
14-15 yr old Boys 65 59 49
14-15 yr old Girls 47 43 33

Gender and age differences are generally consistent and fewer girls report feeling at ease. The differences over time are noticeable and the greatest decline, by 20% over 21 years, is reported by 12-13 year old boys.

Earlier surveys recorded the gender of the GP last visited, and suggested that both boys and girls were more likely to be at ease with female doctors, who are of course in the minority.
In previous publications we have shown that those young people who say they were at ease with their GP on their last visit were also likely to have visited their GP more recently:

At ease (whole sample) 50%
At ease (visited last week) 55%
At ease (visited last year) 48%

Feeling at ease and …
When looking at the most recent sample we can say that those 12-15 year olds who reported feeling at ease when visiting the doctor are more likely to report:

  • Having visited the doctor in the last year
  • Feeling at ease when meeting people of their own age for the first time
  • Feeling satisfaction with their life at the moment
  • Feeling they are listened to at school
  • Feeling that safety, in their area after dark, is good
  • The amount of sleep they get is enough for their health and to stay alert and concentrate on their school work
  • They are happy with their weight as it is
  • Having a high level of self-esteem
  • Eating breakfast

Those 12-15 year olds who reported feeling very uneasy when visiting the doctor are more likely to report:

  • Feeling very uneasy when meeting people of their own age for the first time
  • They have been bullied at school
  • Taking painkillers
  • Having smoked
  • Feeling that safety, in their area after dark, is very poor
  • They would like to lose weight
  • Worrying a lot about at least one of a number of problems including school-work, family, health, money, being bullied etc.

For details about the SHEU HRBQ please visit this link

See also -

There are a number of studies into young people and visits to the doctor including:

Young teenagers’ attitudes towards general practitioners and their provision of sexual health care

Developing adolescent services in general practice

Review of teenage health: time for a new direction

Report on consultation activities with children and young people about GPs and dentists  The Care Quality Commission's report

Young people's views and experiences of GP services in relation to emotional and mental health  A report from Right Here Brighton and Hove

‘Oh, I’m just, you know, a little bit weak because I’m going to the doctor's’: Young men's talk of self-referral to primary healthcare services

Adolescents who are frequent attenders to primary care: contribution of psychosocial factors

Doctors 'missing cancer' in young people