Thursday, May 10, 2012
A February study published in the Student British Medical Journal is only the latest in a string of reports to find sexually transmitted disease rates increasing dramatically among seniors.
Some 80 percent of British, Canadian and American seniors, 50 to 90 years old, are sexually active, the study reports. And STD diagnoses for those ages 45 and older doubled from 2000 to 2009. New diagnoses of HIV in the over-50 crowd doubled between 2000 and 2009. The study also concluded that the bacterial infections syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased in adults 45 to 65 years old.
It attributes this rise to several things. Post-menopausal women don’t think they need to worry about condoms, the report states, and baby boomers of both sexes may not have enough current knowledge about recent developments in STDs. Plus, seniors have lowered immune systems, which makes them more susceptible to infection. And STD prevention ads are usually targeted to 20 – and 30-somethings, not the AARP set.
Or maybe it’s the booze clouding their judgment.
Binge drinking is also a growing problem among seniors, according to a January Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The 65-and-older demographic reported binge drinking – consuming four or more alcoholic beverages for women, five or more for men – more frequently than any other age group, the CDC reports. Seniors who binge drink said they do so 5.5 times a month; the average among binge drinkers in other age groups is four times a month.
It’s widely known that binge drinking leads to listening to bad rock music like Daughtry, but that’s a different story. It also puts people at risk for many other health and social problems, including STDs, according to the CDC.
“We cannot be certain that just because someone is in their 70s, 80s or 90s, they do not have any sexually transmitted diseases,” says CHOMP’s Dr. Jill Tiongco. “I encourage my patients to talk to me when they are engaging in a new relationship.”
Some are concerned they may be carrying an STD and they don’t want to pass it on to their new partner, she says. And some may worry they contracted a disease from a new lover.
“Being in that age group doesn’t make you immune,” she says, adding that bigger cities have a higher prevalence of STDs and HIV. But this, she says, can also give seniors living outside big cities – like those in Monterey County – a false sense of security.
Bottom line: Get tested. Use condoms. Lay off the booze. And don’t listen to Daughtry.