The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Over 45s take risks with their sexual health

Middle-aged underestimate their risk of contracting STIs

OnMedica Staff

Thursday, 02 April 2009

Adults over 45 do not appreciate their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, according to new research.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s (RPSGB) survey found that almost one in five 45-54 year olds (19%) admitted having unprotected sex with someone other than a long-term partner in the past five years.

Nearly one-third of this age group (32%) described their risk of getting an STI when having unprotected sex with a new partner or someone other than their current partner as either unlikely or very unlikely. Even more worryingly, a further 20% believed that their chances of picking up an infection were "next to nothing" in these circumstances.

When comparing the older and younger generations, double the number of over 55s (25%) believed their chances of acquiring an STI from unprotected sex were "next to nothing", compared to just 13% of 18-24 year olds.

A quarter of 45-54 year olds surveyed (23%) said they didn’t use contraception as they trusted the person they were sleeping with not to have an STI, with one in 10 saying they didn’t like the feeling of condoms.

Heidi Wright, head of practice at the RPSGB said: "The majority of safe sex messages are targeted at teenagers, but as more adults begin new relationships later in life, they quite clearly need advice too. Over the last decade STIs have risen significantly in the 45-64 age group.

"You can’t always tell who has an STI and infections don’t discriminate on the basis of age. If you have unprotected sex with a new partner, you are at risk of STIs which often show few symptoms but can have serious consequences to health."

Reacting to the findings, Julie Bentley, Chief Executive of the fpa, said: "Unfortunately age is no defence against sexually transmitted infections. However old or young you are, using condoms will help protect yourself and your partner from STIs. People over the age of 45 who are having sex with new partners need to think about their sexual health in exactly the same way that eighteen year olds do."

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470