Sexual Activity and STD Rates Rise Among Seniors

Older couple being intimate.

Unsafe sexual activity among middle-aged and elderly adults has more than doubled in the past ten years, but experts are at a loss as to why the phenomenon is occurring. According to WebMD Health News, little research has looked into the sexual practices and behaviors of older adults.

“If you want to know about sexually transmitted infections in teens and younger adults, there are plenty of studies to look at, but there is almost nothing to tell us why rates are increasing among older adults,” said Rachel von Simson of King’s College London.

According to an AARP survey in its 2010 report, “Sex, Romance, and Relationships,” sexual activity itself is increasing. About 28 percent of survey respondents said they had sex at least once a week; that number increased to 36 percent among married adults.

And with increased sexual activity, the rates of STDs are rising rapidly. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of syphilis in adults between the ages of 45 and 65 more than doubled in 2010 to 2,550, up from 900 cases in 2000. Chlamydia was more widespread, with the number of cases tripling over the past decade from 6,700 to 19,600.

Researchers from various institutions who have looked at the sexuality of older adults offer many possible reasons for the surge. Drugs that correct erectile dysfunction in aging men have made sex a reality for many more adults, for example. And many in the baby boomer movement may continue to stay sexually active after helping to usher in the sexual revolution in their youth. Some may simply not worry about condom use because they are past the risk of pregnancy, and may not think they are at risk for STDs.

But whatever the reason, the numbers remain the same. That’s concerning for healthcare providers as well as sexually-active older people themselves.

“It is a conversation they need to have,” Anupam Jena of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School said of baby boomers and sexual health. “Just like younger people, older people who are sexually active are at risk for STDs.”

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