Skip to navigationSkip to content
Prom king and queen
AP Photo/The Daily Reflector, Rhett Butler
Ah, but can he fill out a medical form?
A LITTLE FAITH

Most American parents think their 18-year-olds are incapable of making a doctor’s appointment

Adam Epstein
By Adam Epstein

Entertainment reporter

When was the first time you went to the doctor or ER by yourself? Or the first time you filled out your medical history form without having to ask your parents whether you’d had a meningococcal vaccination or if there’s a family history of heart disease?

A poll conducted by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital revealed that parents have very little faith (pdf) in their adolescents’ ability to do these things. Less than half of parents believe their 18- or 19-year-olds can make a doctor’s appointment. Perhaps as a result, only 30% of parents said that their 18- to 30-year-olds transferred to adult care at age 18.

The most popular part of Obamacare has long been the provision allowing young Americans to stay on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday. The rate of uninsured 19- to 25-year-olds declined to 21% in the first quarter this year, from 34% in 2010.

But even those of us between 18 and 26 who don’t have to worry about getting our own healthcare still need to know how to perform basic tasks like making appointments and filling out medical forms.

The question, then, is parents’ pessimism misplaced?

The internet has been both a boon and a hindrance to adolescent health literacy. Information is readily available to teens on the internet, but much of it is bad information. There hasn’t been much research into how health-literate adolescents are, but one study from 2012 showed that only half of high-school students display adequate levels of health literacy.

In other words, parents’ pessimism about their kids’ ability to manage their own health care isn’t unfounded.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.