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In my GP practice I see a lot of teenagers. Although mental health is a common concern, I have noticed an increase in parental worries around sex, drugs and alcohol. This is especially concerning in Singapore where poor decision making by a teenager may have family-wide consequences. Here’s a brief summary of what to be aware of.


The average age for having sexual intercourse in most Western nations is 15 – 17 years old. The legal age to have sex in Singapore is 16 years old. This means that it is a punishable offence to have sex with persons below 16 years of age. Adolescents at international schools may have varied religious and cultural backgrounds which can affect when children start having sex, but it is worth your teen knowing the law.
If you suspect they are sexually active, speak to them about both contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. If this feels uncomfortable, you’re not alone! Often parents ask me, as a neutral third party, to raise these issues and discuss risks and options to ensure their children are protected. If your child hasn’t yet had their HPV vaccine, this can be a good time to come to the doctors together. It also gives me a natural opportunity to raise difficult topics with them on your behalf if need be.

According to data, 15% have tried alcohol by 11, and 73%
by the age of 15


Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance by teenagers. This tends to be in binges which is bad for their health and may lead to other risks such as emergency room visits, deaths and unwanted pregnancies. UK data indicates that 15% of teens have tried alcohol by age 11, and 73% by the age of 15. ​Having said this, children today are more likely to abstain from alcohol than previous generations. The legal age for drinking alcohol in Singapore is 18, and again, it is important to talk to your child about the law, whatever your personal views may be.


Recreational drugs are illegal in Singapore and teenagers should avoid them. Nevertheless, as a GP I am well aware that adolescents are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours and may make poor decisions. Peer pressure can be a significant factor during these years and giving your child ideas of a ‘way out’ if they find themselves in a compromising situation regarding illegal drugs can be helpful. Lines such as “I’m not into that” or “I’ve got a match tomorrow” may help them to navigate that key moment. If you’re concerned, please come and talk to us and be assured that we are a confidential and safe space.

How can a GP help?

Prevention will always be better than a cure, so seek medical help early. Any treatment should be a shared decision with you and your doctor. Please feel free to visit any of our experienced General Practitioners at Osler Health International. Find Osler Health clinics at 328 North Bridge Road, #02-27 Raffles Hotel Arcade, 188719 and 1 Vista Exchange Green, #B1-27, The Star Vista,138617. Email us at raffles@osler-health.com or starvista@osler-health.com

Dr Neil Forrest is a British trained GP family doctor based at Osler Health Star Vista (off Holland Rd). For appointments please visit osler-health.com