Aim: To describe the nature of the encounters between adolescents and general practice in Australia.
Methods: Data collected by the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health programme from 1998-2004 were analysed. Data for 10-14-year-old and 15-19-year-old males and females were compared with data for 25-29-year-olds. The outcome measures included: number of encounters compared with other age groups, reasons for encounter, problems managed, treatments prescribed and referrals made for key problems and types of consultations.
Results: Adolescents have the lowest rate of encounter with general practice, compared with all other age groups. Respiratory, skin, musculoskeletal and unspecified (fever, injury, weakness) problems accounted for the great majority of reasons for encounter and problems managed. Management of mental health problems, preventive health care and health education were very infrequently managed problems. Standard surgery consultations were more common among adolescents than among young adults.
Conclusions: Adolescents have a relatively low rate of encounter with general practice and the problems managed are primarily physical ailments. There is great scope to improve delivery of preventive health care and to increase management of mental health problems.