Older Couples "Use Condoms Less"
November 12, 2008
A new probability survey of 11,161 UK men and women from 1999 to 2001 reveals declining condom use with age, even for new sex partners. In the United Kingdom, the number of new STD diagnoses rose 6 percent from 2006 to 2007, and earlier this year a West Midlands study found STD diagnoses more than doubled in people age 45 and older between 1996 and 2003.
The second British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles included data on 15,488 heterosexual partnerships reported during the preceding year.
For men, 39 percent of partnerships were described as "not regular," compared with 20 percent for women. Women described 55 percent of partnerships as marriages or cohabitations, while 39 percent of partnerships were so described by men.
One-fifth of men reported sex within 24 hours of meeting a partner, and men were more likely to use a condom with these partners. One in 10 women reported having sex within 24 hours of meeting a partner.
Overall, half of participants reported condom use at first sex with a new partner. However, condom use declined with age, with two-thirds of those in their late teens reporting condom use at first sex with a new partner, compared with just one-third for respondents ages 35-44.
Age difference of more than five years was also associated with decreased condom use, especially among older male-younger female partnerships. At the end of a relationship, 37 percent of men and 28 percent of women reported condom use at last sex.
"Increasing rates of [STDs] diagnosed among those in their 30s and 40s suggest that interventions that promote consistent condom use with new partners are urgently required, not just for young people as has been the focus recently, but for people in their 30s and 40s and older who are increasingly forming new partnerships," said study leader Dr. Catherine Mercer of the University College Londons Center for Sexual Health and HIV Research.
The report, "Who Has Sex with Whom? Characteristics of Heterosexual Partnerships Reported in a National Probability Survey and Implications for STI Risk," was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (2008;doi:10.1093/ije/dyn216).
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