Sex & Dating | November 23, 2020 10:31 am

People Over 45 Are at a Higher STI Risk, New Study Finds

Older adults are having more sex, but sexual health attitudes and education have yet to catch up

cropped shot of older couple
Older adults' sex lives are changing. But their attitudes toward sexual health haven't caught up.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

While teens are often painted as sexually irresponsible members of society in need of sex education from their wiser, more experienced elders, a new study suggests older adults might actually be at a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

A new study associated with the SHIFT sexual health initiative found cultural changes in sexual activity among older adults combined with antiquated attitudes toward sexual health and a lack of education has left adults over 45 at a greater STI risk. Researchers surveyed 800 adults across the south coast of England and northern regions of Belgium and the Netherlands, finding “major changes” in sexual behavior among older adults, CNN reported.

Unfortunately, attitudes toward sexual health and education have lagged behind rising rates of sexual activity among older adults, leaving many at risk of the consequences of unprotected sex. According to the recent study, many over-45s “barely consider the possibility of STIs,” with more than 50 percent of respondents admitting to never receiving an STI test.

“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,” Ian Tyndall, senior lecturer at Britain’s University of Chichester, said in a statement.

In addition to a lack of STI education, researchers tied to the project suggested older adults may also struggle with residual stigma surrounding sexual health.

“A big barrier to people accessing services is societal stigma, and assumptions that older people are asexual and that sex is no longer part of their lives,” Tess Hartland, research assistant with the SHIFT project, told CNN. “This really limits the awareness of sexual health services among this group.”