A recent study determined that people over 45 years old are at greater risk “than ever before” of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) due to stigma surrounding middle-aged and older individuals having sex.
The University of Chichester, along with researchers from the U.K., Belgium and the Netherlands, found that negative views toward discussing sexual health and a general lack of knowledge contribute to some older people being unaware of the risks of unprotected sex.
“OVER-45s are at a higher risk of contracting 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 concluded, according to the release.
The study, part of the SHIFT sexual health initiative, surveyed 800 adults across the south coast of England and the northern regions of Belgium and the Netherlands, including about 200 who said they faced a socioeconomic disadvantage.
Nearly 80 percent of respondents were aged between 45 and 65, and 58 percent of those who identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged were between 45 and 54.
Researchers concluded that those older than 45 in socioeconomically disadvantaged situations were at greater risk for contracting STIs and could have less access to health care services.
University of Chichester senior lecturer Ian Tyndall said that major changes in sexual behavior have led to a higher number of sexually active people who are older than 45.
“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 in a statement.
Respondents most commonly attributed their decision not to use contraception to being monogamous, followed by a believed lack of risk for pregnancy, experts said, CNN reported on Monday.
More than half of participants in both the general population and the socioeconomically disadvantaged group reported never being tested for a sexually transmitted infection.
“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,” Ruth Lowry, a researcher on the project from Britain’s University of Essex, said in a statement.
“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,” she added.