Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Emergency Department Use

Julie Weisman, Alyse Chase, Gia M. Badolato, Stephen J. Teach, Maria E. Trent, James M. Chamberlain, Monika K. Goyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives The objective of this study was to determine whether adolescents in emergency departments (EDs) who report engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors are less likely to identify a primary care provider (PCP) and more likely to access the ED than their sexually inexperienced peers. Methods This was a secondary analysis of adolescents presenting to a pediatric ED with non-sexually transmitted infection (STI)-related complaints who completed surveys to assess sexual behavior risk and health care access. We measured differences in self-reported PCP identification, preferential use of the ED, and number of ED visits over a 12-month period by sexual experience. Secondary outcomes included clinician documented sexual histories and STI testing. Results Of 758 patients meeting inclusion criteria, 341 (44.9%) were sexually experienced, and of those, 129 (37.8%) reported engaging in high-risk behavior. Participants disclosing high-risk behavior were less likely to identify a PCP (adjusted odds ratio, 0.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.3-0.9), more likely to prefer the ED for acute care issues (adjusted odds ratio, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.0-2.6), and had a higher rate of ED visits (adjusted relative risk, 1.2; 95% CI, 1.0-1.3) compared with sexually inexperienced peers. Among patients disclosing high-risk behavior, 10.9% had clinician-documented sexual histories and 2.6% underwent STI testing. Conclusion Adolescents who reported engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors were less likely to identify a PCP, as well as more likely to prefer ED-based care and make more ED visits. However, ED clinicians infrequently obtained sexual histories and performed STI testing in asymptomatic youth, thereby missing opportunities to screen high-risk adolescents who may lack access to preventive care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E383-E386
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • adolescent
  • health care access
  • sexually transmitted infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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