Research shows that STI’s of Sexually Transmitted Infections are a growing problem in the over 40s. Unfortunately, this age group do not feel that they are risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and rarely think about using protection, however, Birmingham has been revealed as being high on the list, outside of London, for sexually-transmitted infections – with nearly 10,000 diagnosed last year alone; that is 9 in every 1,000. Chlamydia accounted for 4,700 cases.
The main reason for this increase in Sexually Transmitted Diseases in this age group, is that there are an increasing number of people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are newly single having recently come to the end of a long-term relationship. There is a huge gap in sexual awareness for the over 40’s. There is a false assumption that sex in the over-40s just “doesn’t happen”, or if it does, it isn’t talked about.
According to recent research, sexually active people in their 40’s and 50’s, would have previously been in secure, stable relationships during the 1980s and impassive to the powerful advertising campaigns that shocked their single friends into protecting themselves from the scourge of HIV and AIDS. These older adults were just not exposed to STD’s, as their first sexual experiences were in an age where pregnancy was the only cause for concern.
The problem in 2017, is that lots of people over 45 and single or dating, don’t think that safer sex applies to them. If you are coming out of a long-term relationship, it may not be something you have had to think about for years. And, after the menopause, using condoms can be easily forgotten about. Therefore, STIs are making a comeback in a new generation of 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond.
The most common STI’s are chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes, and genital warts, with numbers increasing every year. The effects of these infections include infertility, pain, and embarrassment and in some cases, if not treated, death.
We all know that young people have sex, and unfortunately, protection is not always used. This phenomenon has been shown to be even more prevalent in the over 40’s, as this age group is not as aware of the possibility of contracting an STD or STI, because of the “safe” era they grew up in.
Or is it that being over the age of 40 somehow provides instant immunity to sexually transmitted infections? The truth is, times have changed and so has the rate of STIs among older adults. In 2015, 28,113 STIs were diagnosed among 45 to 64-year olds.
At the same time, the rate of herpes increased by 130% among this age group. Worryingly, there were also 17,000 new HIV diagnoses.
Sexual Awareness campaigns targeted at the over 40’s have never been considered and this anomaly needs to be addressed. To keep the sexually liberated over-40s infection-free, which will also ultimately save the NHS money, we need a dedicated awareness campaign which sends out the right messages through the right channels to the right people. As a result of one in three couples divorcing, there are now 1,000’s of single over 40’s looking for new relationships. However, just because of their age, they are not automatically immune from contracting STD’s including syphilis, gonorrhoea, hepatitis, chlamydia, HIV/AIDS……….. If new partners do not use protection, they are not only having sex with each other but with every other past partner as well.
Times have changed and sex no longer belongs to the younger generation. We should be embracing the fact that 40, 50, 60 years of age and beyond is no longer “past-it” and celebrate the young and active lifestyles of the older community. This group is now once again revelling in sexual freedom but without the benefit of having ever been the target of public health campaigns to warn them of the dangers. The truth is that infections do not discriminate between 18 or 80-year-olds – we all need to be careful. University students are flooded with sexual health awareness campaigns, education, health professionals input and regular sexual testing, however, older groups are not considered. This needs to change due to the massive rise in new older relationships.
If you are concerned about any issues surrounding sexual health, you can contact the Family Planning Association at www.fpa.org.uk. If you would like to discuss having a sexual health screening and STD tests, you can contact Solihull Health Check Clinic on 0121 745 7400, www.solihullhealthcheckclinic.co.uk. Results are available promptly and confidentially.