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Over-45s at higher risk of contracting STIs says study

  • Date

    Tue 24 Nov 20

Couple holding hands

Over-45s are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), a new report involving the University of Essex has found.

The European study, led by the University of Chichester, found the higher risk was due to society’s unwillingness to talk about middle-aged and older people having sex and limited knowledge towards the age group’s sexual health needs meant there was unawareness of the dangers of unprotected intercourse.

It also found that over-45s living in socially and economically disadvantaged areas are at particularly risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections with little awareness of available healthcare services and limited access to doctors and nurses.

The report is part of the SHIFT project, a three-year initiative which aims to develop a training model that can be used by professionals working in healthcare to improve the sexual health and wellbeing of middle-aged and older people across the UK and Europe.

Dr Ruth Lowry, from Essex’s School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, said: “It is clear from the numbers reporting fear of being judged by important others who know them and by health professionals that stigma remains a crucial barrier to address in any sexual health promotion intervention.

“The findings have also shown that groups with one or more socio-economic disadvantages, such as homeless people, sex workers, non-native language speakers and migrants, are at even greater risk of being unaware of their sexual health and unable to access the appropriate services.”

Project leader Dr Ian Tyndall, from the University of Chichester, said that major changes in sexual behaviour in recent decades has 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 added. “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.”