By Sean Zucker –
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not reserved for the young and reckless. CNN reports that a recent survey found people over 45 years of age are actually at a higher risk of STIs than their younger counterparts.
The survey, conducted through the SHIFT sexual health initiative in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, suggests social sigma and a general unwillingness to deal with sex issues tied to older individuals as the driving causes growing STIs among middle-aged individuals.
“A big barrier to people accessing services is societal stigma, and assumptions that older people are asexual, and that sex is no longer part of their lives. This really limits the awareness of sexual health services among this group,” Tess Hartland, research assistant with the SHIFT project, told CNN.
The SHIFT’s associated researchers also noted that common lifestyle changes among mature individuals is fueling the rise. “Over-45s at most risk are generally those entering new relationships after a period of monogamy, often post-menopause, when pregnancy is no longer a consideration, but give little thought to STIs,” Ian Tyndall, one of the project’s partner organizations, explained.
The contrasting STI rates between younger and older individuals may also reflect a shift in sexual engagement among the young, which is lowering their STI risk. TIME, for example, reports that millennials are bucking a long-standing trend by having less sex than their parent’s generation. Other factors, however, may also contribute to the risk decline across age groups, including the never-ending advent of personal technology.
WellWell recently spoke to Nan Wise, neuroscientist, sex therapist and author of Why Good Sex Matters: Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure for a Smarter, Happier, and More Purpose-Filled Life, who underscored the mental impact of sex and the unique challenges new technology creates for many to experience it.
“Number one, there is so much distraction today. With the internet, smart phones and similar technology, people’s attention is constantly focused somewhere other than with the people closest to them or nearest them,” she told WellWell. “The second is these devices are overstimulating us to the point they’re hijacking the dopamine system, limiting our desire to interact with other because we feel as though we have everything we need. All of this is tempering the rudimentary social skills people need to develop to socialize and forge real connections.”
Why does this matter? Wise claims the inability to gain pleasure from sex hampers the ability to gain pleasure from everyday life, making us more anxious, stressed and depressed.
“When we prioritize pleasure in and out of the bedroom and it becomes practice, it’ll act as an anti-depressant in of itself. The more that we can focus on what I call the healthy pleasures, the things that feel good and are good for us, the better balanced our emotional brains are going to be,” she laments.
While Wise promotes the importance of a balanced and healthy sex life, she isn’t discounting sexual awareness and protection for those 45 and older. In fact, as the SHIFT associates suggested, this is obviously more important than ever for this demographic from both a mental and physical health standpoint.