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Older generation neglect sexual health

Sexual health survey results speak to a greater role for pharmacists in educating 45-54-year-olds of the risks of unprotected sex

Pharmacists could have an increased role in educating the older generation about the risks associated with unprotected sex, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB).

The recommendation follows results from a survey conducted by YouGov, which revealed that adults aged 45-54 are gambling with their sexual health and are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Interviews among 2,258 UK adults aged 18-55+ revealed that almost one in five 45-54-year-olds (19 per cent) admitted having unprotected sex with someone other than a long-term partner in the past five years.

Some 32 per cent believe they are 'unlikely' or 'very unlikely' to contract an STI when having unprotected sex with a new partner or someone other than their current partner. A further 20 per cent said their chances of picking up an infection were 'next to nothing' under these circumstances.

Double the number of over 55s (25 per cent) said they are unlikely to acquire an STI from unprotected sex compared to just 13 per cent of 18-24-year-olds.

A quarter of 45-54-year-olds surveyed (23 per cent) said they didn't use contraception, as they trusted the person they were sleeping with not to have an STI: one in 10 said they didn't like the feeling of condoms.

"You can't always tell who has an STI and infections don't discriminate on the basis of age," said Heidi Wright, head of practice at the RPSGB. "If you have unprotected sex with a new partner, you are at risk of STIs, which often show few symptoms but can have serious consequences to health."

The results of the survey highlight a gap in sexual health education in the UK, which has traditionally been tailored to teenagers and young adults.

"The majority of safe sex messages are targeted at teenagers, but as more adults begin new relationships later in life, they quite clearly need advice too," said Wright. "Over the last decade STIs have risen significantly in the 45-64 age group."

Wright said that it is difficult to know where to go for reliable information, but recommended that people should consult their pharmacist if they have any queries.

"Pharmacists are expert health professionals who already play an important role in sexual health services. They can advise on the prevention and treatment of STIs, pregnancy testing kits, emergency hormonal contraception, condoms and other contraception, as well as being able to tell you about local NHS services too," Wright added.

2nd April 2009

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