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Original article

Vol. 153 No. 5 (2023)

Adolescents’ self-reported health status, behaviours and health issues addressed during routine school doctor consultations in Switzerland: an observational study

  • Yael Rachamin
  • Sofia Elena Nerlich
  • Levy Jäger
  • Saskia Maria De Gani
  • Olivier Favre
  • Oliver Senn
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2023;153:40078


BACKGROUND: We aimed to investigate the self-reported health status and behaviours of 7th-grade adolescents, associations with gender and educational track, as well as health issues addressed during routine school doctor consultations in Switzerland.

METHODS: Data on health status and behaviours, specifically general well-being, stimulant and addictive substance use, bullying/violence, exercise, nutrition and health protection, and puberty/sexuality, were drawn from routinely collected self-assessment questionnaires from 1076 (of a total of 1126) students from 14 schools in the Swiss canton of Zug in 2020. Data on health issues addressed in school doctor consultations were collected by nine school doctors (for 595 individual consultations). Multilevel logistic regression analyses were used to investigate the association of gender and educational track with unfavourable health status or behaviours.

RESULTS: Although 92% (n = 989) of the students reported being happy or satisfied overall, 21% (n = 215) often or almost always felt sad, and 5-10% had repeatedly been seriously physically hurt (n = 67), sexually harassed with words (n = 88) or experienced uncomfortable physical contact (n = 60). Female gender and a lower educational track were associated with unfavourable health status. In 90% (n = 533) of the school doctor consultations, at least one topic of disease prevention or health promotion was addressed, whereby the topics addressed depended strongly on the individual school doctors.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings revealed that unfavourable health status and behaviours were prevalent among adolescents but the health topics addressed in school doctor consultations were not tailored to students’ self-reported health issues. A school-based approach that strengthens adolescents’ health literacy and provides opportunities for patient-centred counselling has the potential to improve the current and future health of adolescents and, ultimately, adults. To realise this potential, it is essential for school doctors to be sensitised and trained to address students’ health concerns. Emphasis should be placed on the importance of patient-centred counselling, the high prevalence of bullying, and gender and educational differences.


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