Truth Be Told: Adolescents’ Disclosure of Sexual Activity to Healthcare Providers

Nicole Liddon, Sanjana Pampati, Riley J. Steiner, Devon J. Hensel, Fu Tsung-chieh Fu, Jonathon Beckmeyer, Debby Herbenick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe whether adolescent and young adult patients truthfully disclose sexual activity to providers during a sexual history and explore associations between disclosure and receipt of recommended services. Methods: Data from the 2018 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior were used to describe self-reported disclsoure of sexually active 14- to 24-year-olds who had a health care visit in the previous year where a sexual history was taken (n = 196). We examined bivariate associations between disclosure and age, race/ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, and receipt of sexual health services. Results: Most (88%) respondents reported telling their provider the truth about sexual activity. A higher proportion of the younger adolescents (14- to 17-year-olds) did not disclose compared with the 18- to 24-year-old respondents (25.4% vs 3.9%; p <.001). A higher proportion of patients who disclosed reported having a sexually transmitted disease test (69.6% vs 26.7%; p <.001); being offered a sexually transmitted disease test (44.3% vs 4.5%; p <.001); and being asked by providers about number of partners (54.3% vs 15.4%; p <.01). Conclusions: Most young patients disclose their sexual history to their provider, but younger patients might be less likely to do so. Positive patient-provider relationships may encourage disclosure of sexual activity and support receipt of indicated sexual and reproductive health services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Adolescent clinical services
  • Adolescent sexual health
  • Patient–provider relationship
  • Sexual history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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    Liddon, N., Pampati, S., Steiner, R. J., Hensel, D. J., Tsung-chieh Fu, F., Beckmeyer, J., & Herbenick, D. (Accepted/In press). Truth Be Told: Adolescents’ Disclosure of Sexual Activity to Healthcare Providers. Journal of Adolescent Health.