Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have doubled among the over 45s in less than a decade, according to a new study published today.
Researchers from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) found that the most commonly diagnosed infection among the over 45s was genital warts, accounting for almost half (45 per cent) of the episodes.
Herpes was the next most common, accounting for almost one in five (19 per cent).
Men and those between the ages of 55 and 59 were significantly more likely to have an STI than anyone else.
Among women, rates were highest among those aged 45 to 54; among men, rates were highest among those aged 55 to 60 plus.
Cases of Chlamydia, herpes, warts, gonorrhoea and syphilis all rose sharply.
The researchers' findings are based on an analysis of the numbers of STIs diagnosed in 19 sexual health clinics and reported to the HPA's Regional Surveillance Unit in the West Midlands.
The period of analysis spanned eight years between 1996 and 2003 inclusive.
Writing in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, the study's authors argue that "existing sexual health programmes do not adequately cater for older individuals".
They call for programmes aimed at preventing STIs to be tailored towards different age groups and to do more to dispel myths and assumptions about the level of sexual activity among older age groups.
"The results of this study, together with evidence from a number of other studies, would indicate that sexual risk-taking behaviour is not confined to young people but also occurs among older people," the researchers conclude.
"Although it is recognised that young people should remain the focus of sexual health programmes, the results of this study suggest that interventions designed to impart knowledge and provide the requisite skills needed to reduce STI risk should be provided for all sexually active age groups."