Are Dating Apps to Blame for the Rise in STIs?

Are Dating Apps to Blame for the Rise in STIs?

Are dating apps to blame for the rise in STIs?
Are you on Tinder?

You wouldn’t be alone – over 50 million people use Tinder, with at least 10 million active daily users.

But recently, people are blaming dating apps for the increase in STIs over recent years.

Is this the case?

Dating apps like Tinder and Grindr have become synonymous with casual sex and the infamous ‘hookup’ culture. When Tinder was first released back in 2012, the internet went crazy with opinions over the good and the bad of casual sex. Whilst some accused the app of ruining the sanctity of relationships and marriage, others praised it for its sexual liberty and empowerment.

Not to mention, sexual attitudes have changed dramatically over the last few decades and dating apps have only picked up the pace. Moving away from the traditional norms of courting, relationships and, eventually, marriage, people are becoming open to short-lived flings and one-night stands. All it takes is texting the right person “you up?” and you’ll find yourself in someone else’s bed for the night.

And it’s not just the internet!

A recent UK study found that one in six men and one in ten women use dating apps to find new sexual partners. Between the ages of 35-44, it was as high as one in three men. It also found that those using online apps were more likely to engage in risky behaviour such as condomless sex with two or more partners, concurrent partnerships and having a higher number of sexual partners.

A second study conducted by the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) found an increase in finding sexual partners online. Just like the first study, risky behaviours were linked to increasing use of dating apps.

If the internet were to be believed, it’s the younger generation that are spearheading the path towards online dating, but this study shows otherwise with dating apps being most popular between those aged 35-44.

So it’s not surprising that the increased use of dating apps has been blamed for the increase in rates of STI diagnoses over recent years.

In Wales alone, reports of syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and hepatitis A have increased over the last year, with syphilis seeing the largest increase of 81%. Where males saw the larger increase in gonorrhoea cases (22%), females saw the larger increase in chlamydia (7%).

It’s not just increasing for those in heterosexual relationships either; syphilis cases have risen 84%, and gonorrhoea by 25%, in men who have sex with men.

These statistics alone don’t point the finger at dating apps. However, the recent UK study found an increase in diagnoses amongst men, heterosexual and gay, using online dating apps. This is echoed in an American study that found that men who used apps such as Grindr to meet sexual partners had higher chances of being diagnosed with chlamydia and gonorrhoea than those who met in person.

With the increase in risky behaviours through these apps, it’s not farfetched to say that these apps are to blame for the rise in STIs.

Except, STIs have also been increasing in the older generation, those less likely to be using online dating apps. GUM clinics across the UK have seen more over 45s being diagnosed with chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Reports of bacterial infections in this age group have more than double compared with 1996, and the rates of anogenital warts (genital warts) also increased.

But if this age group are less likely to be using dating apps, what’s to blame?

It’s simply a lack of knowledge of sexual health and an inability to communicate sexual issues.

More than likely, people in this age group would have been in monogamous relationships for many years and were less likely to worry about the threat of infections from unprotected sex. Females who have gone through the menopause no longer need to worry about pregnancy, leading to risky behaviour because they aren’t aware of STIs or how common they are.

In fact, despite what people believe, studies have found that the younger generation are having less sex with fewer partners and the older generation are those enjoying more sex.

So are dating apps really to blame for the rise in STIs?

It’s true that casual sex is becoming more accessible thanks to the likes of Tinder and Grindr.

But the real fault lies in the lack of sexual awareness in all generations.

The increasing rates of STIs is a prime example of how lacking knowledge of sexual health creates an environment of risky behaviour. Either for those new to sex, or the older generation who are becoming more sexually active, lacking the knowledge of how to stay safe sexually leads to more diagnoses of STIs.

Dating apps no doubt play a part in making it easier to have sex, but what’s really needed to tackle the increasing rates of STIs is better sexual education for all ages, better accessibility to sexual health resources, and a more open dialogue around sex, ending the stigma that has clung to it for centuries.

Remember to practise safe sex, get tested regularly and protect your sexual health!

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