Risk of STIs in Over-45s Reaches Record High

Dawn O'Shea

November 27, 2020

Over-45s are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than ever before because of society's unwillingness to talk about middle-aged and older people having sex, a new report has found.

The study, undertaken by organisations in the UK, Belgium and Netherlands, revealed negative attitudes and limited knowledge towards this age group's sexual health needs, creating a generation unaware of the dangers of unprotected intercourse.

It also found that over-45s living in socially and economically disadvantaged areas are at particular risk of contracting STIs.

A significant number of participants were unaware of the risks of STI. Researchers found that social media was the most effective tool for encouraging engagement with sexual health services - ahead of leaflets or GP appointments.

Participants highlighted that their health professionals lacked sufficient sexual health knowledge, and consequently, only half had a recent STI test. There is therefore an "urgent need" to create a tailored training programme to increase understanding in the wider healthcare workforce, the researchers wrote.

The report is part of the Report of the Sexual Health in over ForTy-Fives (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 well-being of middle-aged and older people across the UK and Europe.

The latest SHIFT report included around 800 participants across the south coast of England and northern regions of Belgium and the Netherlands. The researchers say the initial findings have highlighted four critical areas where an intervention can address the gaps in current healthcare provision: awareness, access, knowledge and stigma.

University of Chichester senior lecturer Dr Ian Tyndall, who is leading the project's evaluation, 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 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."

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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