Purpose: To estimate the prevalences of common illnesses in Hong Kong adolescents, the sociodemographic and selected risk factors associated with these illnesses, and their health care utilization behavior and attitudes.
Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey of 3355 participating secondary school students (response rate = 98%).
Results: Self-reported 3-month prevalences were obtained for cough/cold/influenza (55.2%), digestive disorders (34.6%), accidental injuries (29.5%), headache/dizziness (23.6%), chronic anxiety/insomnia (20.1%), skin problems (9.5%), asthma (3.8%), liver disease (1.3%), and menstrual pain (13.8% of female students). Self-perceived poor health, smoking, and alcohol consumption were associated with many of these illnesses. Treatment choice depended on the illness suffered (e.g., most students with respiratory problems consulted medical practitioners, whereas most with chronic anxiety/insomnia did not). Many students lacked trust in their doctors, doctor-shopped, relied heavily on self-medication, did not comply with prescribed treatments, would not seek help about medical problems, felt they had insufficient access to health information, and wanted confidential health care.
Conclusions: This study examined for the first time the common illnesses and health care utilization patterns of Hong Kong adolescents. Students with chronic anxiety/insomnia were much less likely to seek care, indicating a need for better education on mental health. Efforts to prevent smoking and alcohol consumption among adolescents need to be strengthened. The students' attitudes, poor compliance and help-seeking behaviors suggest suboptimal use of the health care system. Our findings are useful for international comparisons by medical practitioners, health care managers, and researchers.