The three dreaded words ‘sexually transmitted infection’ are often no doubt associated with promiscuous, possible drunken teens or those in their early 20s, with a disregard for the sexual health of themselves or others.
However, there is another and perhaps surprising demographic that are contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), raising questions about what extra safe sex campaigns may need to be considered by the Government in order to fight a worrying trend.
The demographic in question are the ‘baby boomer’ generation; those born post World War 2 between the years 1946 and 1964 when there was a marked increase in birth rates.
The chief medical offer Dame Sally Davies believes the increase in STI rates amongst the older generation could be partly due to a rising number of divorces, casual sex, and many people thinking that condoms are just something for the young.
New figures show a shocking 38% rise in STI numbers in 50 to 70 year olds over the last three years. During 2014 (the latest reported data) there were 15,726 reported STIs in 2014, increasing from the 11,366 recorded infections in 2010.
Dame Sally has urged for more sex awareness campaigns to be aimed at the baby boomer generation as they would not have been taught at school.
She added that there was a common notion amongst 50 to 70 year olds that condoms were not important as the chance of pregnancy is low, citing the fact they had not had sex education lessons at school as a key problem in the issue.
Dame Sally was also concerned with the fact that as many as 14% of men in their early 50s had been with three or more women in the last five years. For women however, just 4% of this age group had three or more sexual partners in the same time period.
She said “The key significance is that Baby Boomers remain sexually active and have under-recognised needs”.
Although STI rates in the 50 to 70 age group are at their highest on record, this could be down to improved detection methods.
The majority of STIs may be treated with antibiotics but if they remain undiagnosed they can raise the risk of certain cancers and induce severe pelvic infections in women.
However, Dame Sally said the baby boomers were in ‘fantastic’ health overall, urging them to carry on working into retirement and even take up volunteering.
“Twenty years ago, you were considered well on your way to old age by the time you reached retirement and now that is simply not the case”.
“People are living longer and many do not want to slide quietly into retirement.
“We are seeing more baby boomers continuing to live active lives where they choose to stay in work and remain physically and socially active and this is great for their health. Others are active in their community and socially.”
Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at Public Health England said: “Young adults under 25 have the highest rates of STIs, however, you can get an STI at any age and we recommend that anyone who has sex with a new or casual partner uses condoms consistently and correctly to prevent infection with an STI.”