Alarming rise in middle-aged victims of STDs

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THE number of Scots aged over 45 hit by sexual disease has rocketed by almost 150% in the past decade, shocking new figures have revealed.

Better health, Viagra, and divorce are the key factors behind the massive rise in middle and old-aged Scots diagnosed with sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

Far higher numbers of under-25s suffered STDs over the same period but the percentage increase was well under 50%.

Herpes Virus. Credit: Nephron, Wikicommons
Herpes Virus. Credit: Nephron, Wikimedia Commons

 

And in the aftermath of the festive season, Scots of all ages are being reminded that a drunken indiscretion could leave them with an unwanted “present”.

The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Information Services Division of the Scottish NHS.

They show that over-45s suffering from the three most common STDs – herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea – rose from 256 in 2003 to 631 in 2012, an increase of 146%.

The number of under-25s suffering from the same diseases went from 10,355 to 15,135. Although the numbers are much higher than for over-45s, the percentage increase was 46%.

The percentage increase for the population as a whole was 43% over the 10 year period, with herpes seeing the highest rise.

Experts have issued a warning to Scots and in particular to the over-45 age group who should “re-educate” themselves on sexual health.

Although all three diseases can be treated, if left for too long some can cause sufferers to become infertile. They can also causing damage to the joints, pelvis and the heart, as well as making victims more susceptible to picking up other infections such as meningitis.

Karen Lorimer, a sexual health expert at Glasgow Caledonian University, said there are many factors which should be considered when determining why more adults are being diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases.

These include a healthier ageing population, along with a growing divorce rate. Earlier this year it was revealed that Scots were on average living six years longer than in the 1980s.

Along with this it was reported that those suffering from coronary heart disease has fallen by 2%, while strokes were down by 3%.

Although the divorce rate has slightly dropped in the most recent years, Ms Lorimer suggested that a peak in the early 2000s could be responsible for a continuing increase in older adults being diagnosed with STDs.

Ms Lorimer said: “There are many reasons why it could be, but there is nothing definitive. “For example, we are looking at the rise in divorce in the early 2000s, the fact that adults are ageing more successfully and if you are healthy you’re more likely to be sexually active.

“There are also newer medications which can treat things like erectile dysfunction now.

“You can see the link between sexual health and broad health. “With an aging, healthy population, divorce and online dating there are many possible factors.

“You have silver surfers looking for relationships online and are meeting sexual partners here. “Alcohol is also a factor.

“Sometimes you think of this as something that affects younger, but we have heard of older people risk taking with this too.

“Also not using condoms. When you’re older you aren’t worried about getting pregnant and they are not the generation who sex education either, and on top of this they don’t feel like they are at risk because they are not younger.”

She continued: “It’s challenging as researchers because we are not sure if procedures to help younger people can be transferred on to older people. “We are looking more at technology to target sexually transmitted disease, and we don’t know if this is something that would transfer.

“We have to explore these.”

Director of Health and Wellbeing, at sexual health charity FPA, Natika Halil said: “Over the last decade we have seen an increase in the diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections.

“This suggests condom use is on the wane and many young people may be relying on treatment rather than prevention – perhaps the high-profile campaigns which drove a significant upsurge in the use of condoms in the 1980s and 1990s have been forgotten.

“Those who are older and coming out of marriages and long-term relationships might find themselves with very little information and knowledge about STIs as they meet new partners.

“This could include postmenopausal women who don’t need to worry about pregnancy, and so don’t think to use contraception. “Not being as informed about STIs, how they are transmitted, and how and where to get tested, can all make a person more vulnerable.”

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