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Condom awareness lacking in older people

A new study has revealed while older people have a good knowledge of STIs, many still lacked knowledge about the protection offered by condoms.

A new study suggests sex education initiatives need to be more inclusive of older people (Source: Shutterstock)
A new study suggests sex education initiatives need to be more inclusive of older people (Source: Shutterstock)

Researchers at La Trobe University surveyed more than 2000 Australians aged 60 and over, asking them questions to help assess their knowledge of STIs and safer sexual practices. 

While nearly 90 percent had a good knowledge of STIs and the way they were transmitted, just 64 percent correctly identified condoms don’t offer 100% protection against STIs. In addition, participants were less clear about the risk and transmission modes of specific STIs.

The study also found women had better knowledge than men, and surmised this may be because women are more likely to visit healthcare providers and be exposed to education in healthcare settings.

Associate Professor Anthony Lyons says the survey was carried out because often the focus is on younger people when it comes to sexual health. “But we’ve found in the past few years, SDIs has been increasing in the older population so we were curious about sexual health and knowledge in the older population,” he says.

He highlights it’s important to remember the context of the survey. “Many older people are in long term marriage and are monogamous so using condoms is not relevant as they are having sex with one partner,” he says.

“Knowledge is generally pretty good of what [STI] causes are, who’s at risk and those sorts of questions, but the condom question, whether a condom offers 100 percent protection against STIs, only 64 percent got it correct,” he says.

When comparing relationships status, the survey found knowledge wasn’t any better for those who are single.

Prof Lyons suggests the reason may be down to people’s education in their younger years. “The older generation didn’t have much sex education, and if they did, it was more probably focused on pregnancy rather than STIs,” he says.

The paper suggests further education appears warranted and a main issue is how to support older people to keep up with trends in sexual health prevention. It highlights education initiatives need to be more inclusive of older people, especially older men, those with lower education and others with poorer STI and safer sex knowledge.

“Some older people will be starting a new relationship for whatever reason, and they will need to be educated in that area,” says Prof Lyons.

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