For some people who are in their 30s, to think of one day being in their 60s and 70s is kind of a murky thought. We know it will happen one day. It is after all, inevitable. But the concept is kind of hard to grasp. My parents are in their 60s and I think of them as being in this superior hemisphere where wisdom reigns and experience is king; this is a much different landscape than the 30s where residents there are just beginning to get their bearings straight and are lucky if they have already paid off their student loans. Naturally, I don’t think of sexually transmitted diseases as running rampant across the senior population, especially with people like my parents who, in my mind, have never had sex because the stork literally brought me to them. In actuality, however, seniors still need to be concerned about contracting and transmitting sexually transmitted diseases.
According to physicians in the United States, the risk of getting infected with a sexually transmitted disease is actually higher for those senior men who take drugs like Viagra that help with erectile dysfunction. In fact, compared to those senior men who do not take these drugs, the risk is double. This does not leave those non-medicated seniors without risk, however. The number of cases of STD infections in this population has risen considerably since a decade ago. In fact, for those men in their 40s and higher, the percentage has crept up almost 50% since 1996.
The head of this recent study, Dr. Anupam B. Jena, stated, “Younger adults have far more STDs than older adults, but the rates are growing at far higher rates in older adults.” While researchers have not quite pinpointed the main reason for this steady increase, some are speculating that the rising divorce rate and overall better health for those in this age group may be contributing factors. Jena states, “We are typically unaccustomed to practice safe sex over the age of 50, because the risk of pregnancy is eliminated.” Because of this, those in their 50s are virtually six times less likely to consistently and correctly use condoms during sex compared to men that are in their 20s.
Jena and her fellow researchers wanted to test whether drugs like Viagra may take some responsibility for the increase of STDs in the senior population. To do so, they combed through close to one and a half million insurance records of men over the age of 40. Of this data, the most common sexually transmitted disease was HIV. This was followed closely by syphilis, Chlamydia and gonorrhea. The data suggested that drugs like Viagra did not seem to play a part in the increase of sexually transmitted diseases as many men in the study had already been tested and treated for a sexually transmitted disease before they ever filled their erectile dysfunction medication prescriptions. One thing to note, however, was that the risk of getting an STD was double for those men who took these types of drugs. Jena stated, “These users have a different sexual risk profile than non-users.” The study is a reminder that “sex after age 40 years is not necessarily safe.” Jena also strongly urged doctors who prescribe erectile dysfunction drugs to older men to discuss safe sex with them. Jena advises the senior population, “Look, just realize that you are at higher risk for STDs, and try to be careful like you used to be 30 years ago.”