Older adults at increasing risk of sexually transmitted diseases

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

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