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Grown-Up, But Still Irresponsible

November 16, 2010

50-something singles are singled out in a new study from Indiana University (IU) for their casual sexual behavior and less-than-diligent use of condoms.


Among men over 50, 23 percent said their most recent sexual connection was with a "friend" or "new acquaintance." The comparable number among women was 13 percent, said IU's National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior.

Single people over 50 may be less likely than middle-age peers to want to "complicate" their lives with committed sexual relationships, suggested Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Sex after 50 is "warm, it's nice, they care about each other, but no one is under the illusion this is grand love," said Schwartz, who advises the study's sponsor, Trojan condom manufacturer Church & Dwight.

Condom use during the most recent sexual contact reached only 25 percent among those 50-plus respondents who were single, had a new sex partner or had more than one partner in the last year. Almost 40 percent said they had never been tested for HIV, and a significant number were unaware of their partners' sexual history.

Experts suggest several reasons for the relatively infrequent use of condoms among older adults:

  • Older singles, particularly those who have spent their lives in committed relationships, consider HIV/AIDS a concern of younger people.
  • Sexual activity among older singles is not a priority of the public health establishment.
  • Older adults lack anyone comparable to a parent figure who would urge them to stay safe.
  • Older men may be concerned that condoms can cause erectile dysfunction.
  • Senior adults who have not used condoms for decades may be reluctant to resume doing so, said Dr. Debby Herbenick, an investigator on the study.

Back to other news for November 2010

Adapted from:
New York Times
10.10.2010; Roni Caryn Rabin

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More on HIV Prevention Issues for Older People

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