LIFESTYLE NEWS - Although adolescent boys have as many health issues and concerns as adolescent girls, they are much less likely to discuss these issues with a healthcare professional or anyone for that matter.
Talking to adolescent boys about their health concerns involves gaining the knowledge and communication skills to address their concerns in a manner that they can relate to.
This will depend on the ability to initiate conversations about a wide range of topics.
The young teen needs to know that the healthcare professional they visit is interested and available to talk to about sensitive topics such as sexual health; sexuality; nutrition and exercise patterns; contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Parents of pre-adolescent and adolescent boys should arrange regular health visits for their sons, beginning in their early teens.
Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health conditions affecting young boys. A decrease in school performance, increasing conflict with parents and authority, loss of interest in activities or frequent disruptions in sleeping patterns could be symptoms of depression.
Depression and suicidal tendencies are increasing in frequency among adolescent boys. Agitation and aggression are possible symptoms. It is important for the healthcare professional to bring up these topics with young men.
Reproductive health issues and STIs
Many young boys are sexually active before the age of eighteen. Those who engage in multiple risk behaviours are more likely to have unprotected sex, increasing the rate of pregnancy and STIs. Despite public health efforts to educate teens about prevention, condoms are not used consistently. Questions about dating, sexual attraction and sexual orientation should be sex neutral.
Violence and illegal activity
Adolescents who have been physically or mentally abused at home or who have been bullied at school may be more susceptible to getting into fights or to to be violent. The average age of male youth involvement in crime is sixteen. Poor school performance is one of the most important predictors of criminal behaviour.
Substance use and abuse
Use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana is very prevalent among adolescents. Males are much more likely than females to binge drink (five or more drinks at one time) and also drive a vehicle while intoxicated. Adolescents who initiate alcohol or substance use at an early age, may be involved in multiple health risk behaviours.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Teenage boys are more likely to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) than girls. Untreated ADHD and school failure may have associated comorbidities such as school absenteeism; substance abuse; and family and peer conflict.
A comprehensive approach to treatment, including dealing with educational needs, medication and any comorbid conditions, is important.
Disturbances of body image and diet are less prevalent in boys than girls, but it is more common than generally believed.
Symptoms of eating disorders in boys may include over-exercise, intense bodybuilding, the use of anabolic steroids and preoccupation with body shape and musculature. Weight loss or gain may occur. The symptoms can go undetected for long periods of time because they may not be alarming to parents, teachers or coaches. Psychiatric comorbidity is common, particularly depression, low self-esteem and substance abuse.