Older Britons Use Condoms Less Frequently Than Teenagers

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People in their 30s and 40s living in the United Kingdom are half as likely as teenagers to use a condom when having sex with a new partner, according to a study published recently in the International Journal of Epidemiology, London's Daily Telegraph reports. The study found that nearly 70% of those between ages 16 and 19 used a condom with a new partner, compared with 38% of men and 29% of women between ages 35 and 44 (Gammell, Daily Telegraph, 11/12). The new information follows an announcement from the United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency that rates of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV are on the rise in the country, with a 6% increase in the total number of new STIs diagnosed in 2007 compared with 2006 (BBC News, 11/12).

The study, led by Catherine Mercer of the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research at University College London, looked at the heterosexual relationships of 11,161 people (O'Brien, PA/The London Paper, 11/12). The data showed that although the overall number of heterosexual people using condoms during a first sexual encounter stood at 55%, that figure declines with age (Daily Telegraph, 11/12). Mercer said that because interventions promoting consistent condom use with new partners traditionally are targeted at younger people, such efforts are "urgently required" for those in their 30s and older. She said, "I definitely think older people need to be encouraged to use condoms a lot more when they start new partnerships," adding, "We didn't ask people why they didn't use condoms, but maybe it's complacency or denial something will happen to them." Mercer said that while other forms of contraception may have been used among the age group, they were unlikely to protect against STIs at the start of a relationship.

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According to Mercer, a significant concern stemming from the research is the effect of the growing number of divorces on the sexual health of older people. She said, "Although a disproportionate amount of partnerships are formed among people in their teens and 20s, the fact is that about 45% of marriages are now expected to end in divorce, which means that the 'population attributable risk' of partnership formation by those in their 30s and 40s will increase" (PA/The London Paper, 11/12).

Julie Bentley, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said, "This research shows that no matter what age you are, or what type of relationship you are in, sexual health messages still apply." Lisa Power of the Terrence Higgins Trust said, "STIs are no respecter of age and although most media portrayals of sexual relationships involve young people, these figures show that it's important to support people to have a healthy sex life at every age" (BBC News, 11/12).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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