Older adults at increasing risk of sexually transmitted diseases

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Older adults and those in middle age are more at risk than ever of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because of society’s unwillingness to talk about people over the age of 45 having sex.

A study undertaken by the University of Chichester, alongside organisations in the UK, Belgium, and Netherlands, revealed that negative attitudes and limited knowledge relating to this age group’s sexual health needs were associated with a generation unaware of the dangers of unprotected intercourse.

The situation is similar in Australia, where the number of over-50s contracting chlamydia, gonorrhoea and infectious syphilis nearly doubled in four years in Queensland, according to Queensland Health statistics.

YourLifeChoices sex therapist Lucy Patarcic says many older adults forget about using protection once they know they can no longer get pregnant.

“Older people still need to take precautions with new sexual partners,” she explained. “Often people do not consider the use of condoms as they are not worried about pregnancy in later life.

“It is advisable that both partners complete tests (for STDs) before starting a new sexual relationship.”

The University of Chichester study found that over-45s living in socially and economically disadvantaged areas were at particular risk of STDs.

University of Chichester senior lecturer Dr Ian Tyndall said that major changes in sexual behaviour in recent decades had seen increasing numbers of sexually active older people.

“Over-45s at most risk are generally those entering new relationships after a period of monogamy, often post-menopause, when pregnancy is no longer a consideration, but give little thought to STIs,” he said.

“Given improvements in life expectancy, sexual healthcare needs to improve its intervention for older adults and vulnerable groups to provide a more utilised, knowledgeable, compassionate, and effective service.”

The results of the recent study show that 46 per cent of participants were unaware of the risks.

Top tips for safer sex

  • while the best way to avoid an STI is to avoid sex, you can improve your safety by always using a condom and having regular STI tests
  • you can catch an STI at any age – you’re never too young or too old to practise safer sex
  • condoms are not just for stopping pregnancy – they are also the best way to protect against STIs
  • STIs don’t discriminate – anyone can be at risk
  • STIs may not have any obvious signs
  • if you change partners you will need to use condoms to stay safe
  • follow the ‘no condom, no sex’ rule if you’re starting a new relationship
  • practise what to say to your partner about using a condom and remember it’s okay to tell your partner: ‘no condom, no sex’ or ‘if it’s not on, it’s not on!’

Further information about practising safe sex can be found at www.jeanhailes.org.au.

Do you practice safe sex? Are you aware of the risks of having unprotected sex with a new partner?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 5
  1. 1

    Chance would be a fine thing, I’ve reached the stage where my doctor told me that I’d have to give up half of my sex life so I asked him; “Which half Doc, thinking about it or talking about it!”

  2. 1

    ““Over-45s at most risk are generally those entering new relationships after a period of monogamy, often post-menopause, when pregnancy is no longer a consideration, but give little thought to STIs,” he said.”

    Oh please! This implies that only women are contracting/transmitting STIs. Has Dr Tyndall never heard that men give little thought to STIs?

    But the rise in common STIs is not confined to the 15-29 age group. With more frequent divorce, relationship breakdowns and even suicides or death from illness, there are more older people finding themselves back on the market! And of course, why wouldn’t they want to continue to be sexually active?

    Just as it was both party’s responsibility to avoid pregnancy if that’s what they wanted, it is both party’s responsibility to avoid both the transmission and contraction of STIs. I do agree that a sexual health check-up is (or should be) necessary before engaging in any sexual activity with a new sexual partner (hook-up, a friend with benefits etc). Otherwise, those contact tracers will be calling you!

    Yep, contact tracers work in sexual health too!

  3. 1

    In many years of nursing and several of those as an Infection Control Nurse, when did we start referring to these diseases as “STIs”….it was ALWAYS “STD’s” are we again copying overseas people? It makes me cranky!

    • 1

      You must have been away from nursing for many many years. I have worked in the sector for over 10 years and the name changed happened well before that. Just like it changed from VD to STDs!

  4. 1

    So I thought I’d Google it KSS….
    “Since 2013 Some People Have Ditched the Term “STD”
    You may have noticed that in recent years, many publications, healthcare organizations, and some doctors have stopped using the term STD (sexually transmitted disease) in favor of a new phrase, STI (sexually transmitted infection)”
    So in the scheme of things and medical things 17 years is not that long!
    I retired in 2004 …. I started in 1957. I am 81 next month….. you?



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