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Why are many older adults ignoring STIs?


1st Jan 2015 Health Conditions

Why are many older adults ignoring STIs?

STIs don't just affect the young, older adults are vulnerable too! Learn about the growing concerns of STIs in older life.

The growing problem of STIs among older adults

When it comes to thinking about people with sexually transmitted infections, we’re more likely to think of those who are young, the age group that’s universally targeted in sexual health awareness ads. Campaigns about safer sex and STI risks are primarily aimed at the younger generation.

Some may argue this is because older adults no longer need to be educated about sexual health, but is this the only reason?


Growing up in a different time era

Considering the era they grew up in, one in which there was a distinct lack of sex education or proper awareness of STIs, can we really just assume older people should now know everything? Given the topic matter, it’s not always easy to discuss sexual issues with a local GP.

Consequently, some older people are continuing to take risks with their sexual health.


Big midlife changes

Getting older means making many midlife changes. For some, this means going back into the dating scene after separating from long-term partners. Some older adults may have never used a condom for years when having marital sex.

Therefore, they may not know how to use one properly or are simply too used to having unprotected intercourse. According to a 2010 sexual health study carried in Indiana University, people aged over 45 had the lowest rate of condom use.


Lack of sex education

Many older adults, who lived in the 50s and 60s, were part of a generation where the threat of STIs was not as daunting as it is now. At that time, sex education for the lower and middle classes wasn’t particularly great either.

Also, many of them would have been in long-term relationship during the late 70s and 80s, leaving them impassive to the influential HIV advertisements that shocked their single friends into practising safe sex.


The worrying statistics

Long overlooked and little researched, sex among older adults is slowly starting to get widespread attention due to the recent STI reports.

For people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, the rate of STI’s such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis has gone up by almost 50%. From 1999 to 2008, the Health Protection Agency revealed the rate of gonorrhoea amongst men aged 45-64 had more than doubled while there was a 93% increase in women.

Moreover, there was an estimated 17,000 new diagnoses of HIV along with a 130% increased rate of herpes among all people in this age bracket. Though these stats are not as high when compared with teenagers or adults, they are still a major cause for concern. A group of researchers at Kings College said, the promotion of safe sex awareness for this age group is rather non-existent.


It’s not talked about enough

The research authors have said it’s difficult to grasp why STI rates are continuing to rise among the over 40s, mainly because the sex lives of this age group have been largely ignored. Up until the public health data highlighted this steady rise in STI rates, there was practically no research to work with. Even now, there is only limited research to analyse.

Based on what we know, longer lives and increased divorce rates may be causing older people to practice sex with multiple sexual partners than was previously the case. Whatever the overriding reasons are, it is important to practice safe sex to avoid the risk of getting an STI.

Make sure to have a consultation with a doctor if you have any questions about your sexual health. Though it can sometimes be difficult, being honest about your sexual history helps doctors to make a more informed diagnosis.  

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