Introduction: Understanding how teenagers think about sexual health and assessing the ways in which they engage with sexual health information are important issues in the development of appropriate sexual health education programmes. Sexual health education programs in the UK are inconsistent and is not possible to assume that teenagers’ information needs are being met by such programs. Teenagers often feel uncomfortable discussing sexual health making it difficult to assess teenagers’ understanding and engagement with the topic.
Methods: we used qualitative diaries to explore how thoughts about and exposure to sexual health information features in teenagers’ day-to-day lives. Thirty-three low SES female teenagers aged 13 and 14 from schools in the UK kept a daily note of any sexual health related thoughts and feelings, and any sexual health information they encountered.
Results & Conclusions: Thematic analysis indicated three themes (1) Knowledge gaps and a desire for factual information (2) The social and emotional context of sexual health and (3) limited access to reliable information. Teenagers showed poor understanding of the biological aspects of sexual health and were concerned about the social and emotional context of sexual health. The teenagers’ did not actively seek out sexual health information and access to information resources was limited. Although teenagers showed gaps in their knowledge they were curious about sexual health and were open to receiving sexual health information. Being aware of the ways that low SES female teenagers are thinking about sexual health is useful in developing education programs and other resources that will help fill gaps in knowledge and understanding.