Researchers have found that people above 45s are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than ever before because of society's unwillingness to talk about middle-aged and older people having sex.
The study from the University of Chichester in the UK revealed that over-45s living in socially and economically-disadvantaged areas are at particular risk of contracting sexually-transmitted infections.
According to the researchers, major changes in sexual behaviour in recent decades has seen increasing numbers of sexually active older-people.
"Over-45s at most risk are generally those entering new relationships after a period of monogamy, often post-menopause, when pregnancy is no longer a consideration, but give little thought to STIs," said study author Ian Tyndal from the University of Chichester.
"Given improvements in life expectancy, sexual healthcare needs to improve its intervention for older adults and vulnerable groups to provide a more utilised, knowledgeable, compassionate, and effective service," Tyndal added.
The latest SHIFT report included around 800 participants across the south coast of England and northern regions of Belgium and the Netherlands, nearly 200 of which face socioeconomic disadvantage.
Initial findings have highlighted four critical areas where, the researchers believe, an intervention can address the gaps in current healthcare provision: awareness, access, knowledge, and stigma.
The results showed that a significant number of participants were unaware of the risks of STI, while 46 per cent did not know the location of their nearest healthcare centre.
Researchers did, however, found that social media was the most effective tool for encouraging engagement with sexual health services.
The findings have also shown that groups with one or more socioeconomic disadvantages, such as homeless people, sex workers, non-native language speakers and migrants, are at even greater risk of being unaware of their sexual health and unable to access the appropriate services.