June 24th, 2010
03:39 PM ET

Study: Older folks swinging their way to STDs

By Caitlin Hagan
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Sexually transmitted infections are probably not what most older Americans anticipate dealing with as they age. Yet they're becoming an unfortunate reality for some in the over-45 crowd. A study published in the British Medical Journal finds that older "swingers,"  - the term the researchers used - are at high risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common sexually transmitted infections. The infection rates among older study subjects were nearly as high as in other high-risk populations, including men who have sex with men and young people.

The study authors defined swingers as "heterosexual couples who are practising mate swapping, group sex, [or who] visit sex clubs for couples." While it sounds obvious that this lifestyle puts people at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections, the concern is that because older people are not as well educated about sexually transmitted diseases as their younger partners, they don't regularly practice safe sex or get regular screenings to detect infections.

The researchers looked at data collected over a two-year period at a sexually transmitted infections clinic in the Netherlands. All patients visiting the clinic were asked directly if they were swingers. The infections rates were determined using that self-reported data from nearly 9,000 patients.

Overall, swingers had the second highest combined rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea with 10.4 percent of swingers being infected. That's compared with 14 percent of gay men, 10 percent in straight people who did not swing, and 5 percent in female prostitutes.

When the researchers specifically looked at the over-45 population, they found 55 percent of the diagnoses for chlamydia and gonorrhea occurred in swingers, versus 31 percent in gay men.

Reliable statistics for how many couples practice swinging are hard to come by. Some dating websites for American swinging couples boast memberships in the tens of millions and advocates of swinging say it's become a popular mainstream lifestyle choice for millions. The study authors hypothesize that the number of willing partners and the prevalence of unprotected sex among older individuals puts swingers at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections. To lower the risk but continue with their lifestyle, researchers recommend swingers be tested for common infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea regularly and practice safe sex, including regular condom use.

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soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. DMC

    The study was done at just a single clinic in the Netherlands. The results do not necessarily apply to Americans, they might just be valid for the swingers in the city where that particular clinic is located. BAD job of extrapolating the results of the data beyond what they can support! Learn some statistics, Dr. Gupta!

    June 24, 2010 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Also.Not.A.Swinger

    Laurent and Not.A.Swinger ... The author is not suggesting that the overall swingers jump of STD's from 10% to 10.4% is of significance ... but rather that the jump in the 45+ swinger segment to a 55% rate of infection was significant... and it is ...! Just poorly written, the two paragraphs should be combined...

    June 24, 2010 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. John D

    The moral of the story here is that your safest bet is to go see a female prostitute for sex.

    June 24, 2010 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Paul

    The only population that's really much different are the female prostitutes. They only have 5% compared to all the rest between 10 and 14%. That's surprising! I guess the puritanical side of the researchers decided to take the negative route and say swinging is unsafe instead of hiring prostitutes is safer than sleeping with your friends wife (perhaps for more than one reason).

    June 24, 2010 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Norm

    Valerie June 24th, 2010 16:11 ET

    So are we supposed to stop living because we're older than you Valerie?

    June 24, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Christopher

    I agree with Laurent. You are looking at a .4 difference in infection rates. that may be within the realm of statistical error.

    June 24, 2010 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Midquake

    My father was widowed at 64. He began dating after a few months, somehow finding a woman two years younger than my older sister and less than half his own age. I drew the short straw, and had to have "The Talk" with him.
    It was not fun pointing out that since the last time he went on a date, which was during the Eisenhower administration, that the cooties had mutated so No Glove, No Love please. He really had no idea of the variety of available diseases nowadays.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bobby

    The moral of the story is that you're better off with a hooker if you want a clean partner.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Brett

    What was the point of this article? The increase in risk is not even statistically significant. .4% is probably within the margin of error and is therefore pretty much meaningless. Sounds like the risk of contracting STD's in straight men, regardless if they are swingers or not, is around 10%. Big deal.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Swinger

    I have done some swinging in the past year with my girlfriend and other couples. We have rules, safe sex and no exchange of bodily fluids. The only way to play safe. P.S. I'm not in the over 45 crowd.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. bit older and FIT!

    Valerie, getting older is a part of life and someday you will be a bit droopy as well I suppose.... not to mention that the sex gets better and better ;-).

    I agree that a bit more demographic data would be useful.

    I was pleased also to see there are not yet any comments which stigmatize sex.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Andrea M

    I've said it once, I've said it a million times, baby boomers need to grow up and accept the fact that they're not 25 anymore. It's not the 60's and there are diseases out there that can't be cured with penicillin now. Keeping the 60's mentality of sex in 2010 endangers not only yourself, but any partners you may have. Back in my prime club whorin' days two years ago (I'm 22, happily monogamous with my boyfriend for two years) sure I'd play with whatever cute guys I found, but I'd never think of even touching them without protection. People who are having multiple random partners and NOT using caution these days are terrifying.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. itwillbeyou

    Ya sounds nasty. Check back in 20 years and you'll be reading about yourself.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Craig Shearer

    45 is old? Hmm. I am a 41 year old male and have screwed more 25 year old girls in the past 6 weeks than most men will in their life. Better change your definition of old.

    June 25, 2010 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dee

      and we are mentally, what, 15?

      June 27, 2010 at 15:12 | Report abuse |
  15. Eric

    Strange that the sex worker infection rate is half that of heterosexuals not doing sex work. Either the sex workers are getting REGULAR checkups or there could be a problem with the study.

    June 25, 2010 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Beth Boyle

    That is the Netherlands and they are very liberal about everything from pot to swinging and I don't think it reflects what is going on in the US. It certainly does not seem like this kind of thing in happening in the rural and small town region I live in.

    June 25, 2010 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Justin

    Who knows whats going on out there. Sounds terribly desperate and sad to get the clap when you're 45. and definitely know better.

    June 25, 2010 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. MariElle

    Why in the world would you assume 'older' as in over 40's are less educated about STD's? I'm 60 – we INVENTED the education on STD's- how stupid!

    June 25, 2010 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Bill

    You have to keep in mind the study was based upon participants self-reporting their "swinging" status. If even 1% of the "straight" group lied and actually had multiple sex partners, the 10.4 figure would be much higher (assuming that the straight group is much larger than the "swinging" group - which is a reasonable assumption).

    June 25, 2010 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lynne

    Behave yourselves and you won't have to worry about STD's.

    June 25, 2010 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jack

    There was a recent article on local TV about the "sexually active" seniors in "The Villages" whch is basically a retirement community in Florida. There is a high rate of STD's in this community. It is attributed to the fact the females are past menopause so they feel free to be sexually active and not practice safe sex.

    It may sound gross to the younger set, but for those in that are group – go for it.

    June 25, 2010 at 04:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JadeDragon

    If 10% of the non-swinging population are infected but only 5% of female prostitutes are infected that is a strong argument for sleeping with hookers instead of average women you meet at work or on the street. Hey according to this study you cut your STD rate in half! Yet when you donate blood one of the exclusion questions is "have you been with a prostitute"

    Something is screwy with this study, and it is not just the swingers.

    June 25, 2010 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Karen

    "the concern is that because older people are not as well educated about sexually transmitted diseases as their younger partners, they don't regularly practice safe sex or get regular screenings to detect infections."

    "Not as well educated?" That was the most inane comment in the article! You definitely are reaching for straws here. You are trying to say that the over 45 population just all of a sudden became stupid? Contracting STDs can happen in ANY age group. ANYONE leading the swinging lifestyle can have repurcussions. Under the guise of helping people, the author did not do well, in fact, you should have left that comment out it did not help.

    June 25, 2010 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. mike

    Is anyone else amazed that the rate of infection in female prostitutes is half that of straight, non-swingers?

    June 25, 2010 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Lynn

    I agree with Valerie! But I would like to add, swinging is gross no matter what age you are and I have no trouble believing that swingers have a higher rate of STD's. Duuuh!

    June 25, 2010 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. zacharyba

    Statistically speaking, it seems being a female prosititute is really the safetest and wisest choice.

    June 25, 2010 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Karen

    Disgusting and they deserve to contract STD's, thats the price you pay to play. Shame on these immoral selfish people who cannot function in a single and committed relationship. At 45+, these people should retire bumping ulglies, or better yet settle down because your not in your twenties. The 'Swinging' thing is for ego purposes-get over it people! With the problems of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in the world, they obviously live for the moment and don't care about anything but getting off.

    June 25, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. diane

    i totally enjoy the swinger lifestyle. you get the best of both worlds. dont knock it til youve tried it.

    June 25, 2010 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. reality check

    Its always easy to throw statistics and forget the facts.

    The age group that is quoted in the study, the "over 45 age group", is the first generation that were to come "of age" during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. its easy to forget the controversy over the first ads for condoms that were aired on TV, and Why.

    As for the stats, It would be an interesting to know the TYPE of infection.

    Unfortunately, many that engage in the swinging lifestyle, consider themselves practicing safe sex when they use condoms for intercourse, but fail to protect themselves during foreplay, or oral sex.

    the one number that was not included was the total interviewed. How were the people questioned for the study obtained?

    June 25, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ex Swinger

    The data is either very poor or the interpretation of the data is very poor because the article is saying the safest way to prevent STD's is to be a female prostitute. Interesting theory.

    As far as the increase in "older swingers", this makes sense because the "older" generation is coming from the 60's and 70's era of free love rather than the previous era's of the 40's and 50's. It's not so much the attitudes that are changing in the group but the makeup of the people in those age brackets. These "older" people are not the Ward & June Cleaver people anymore but the Boogie Nights era people.

    June 25, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Scorpio1031

    Prostitutes most often use condoms therefore low rate of STDs. The general population still doesn't use condoms often enough, therefore higher rate of STDs.

    June 25, 2010 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Durpdeedur

    To all the people wondering about the prostitues, ever think that since prostituion is legal and regulated there that the girls get check ALOT more then the regular civilian... Durp DEE DUR

    June 25, 2010 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. edward

    It seems that if people choose to get involved in high risk behaviors they should at least have the common sense to practice safe sex.

    June 25, 2010 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Positive

    I'm still wondering that many people are old enough and still can be so naive,I think that we human beings are tend to think when it comes to safe sex,that we think it will not happen to me,maybe to someone else but not me and that's another reason of not doing anything that prevent spreading sex diseases.

    June 27, 2010 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Dee

    that's just gross

    June 27, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Dylan

    Some people deserve what they get. And some people I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Like swingers. I would hate to shake someone's hand if I knew there was up to a 55% chance they had an STD.

    June 27, 2010 at 19:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. TFCIV

    Does this only refer to the rusty metal chain swings, or even the new ones with the plastic covering the chains?

    June 28, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. chloe

    After trying several sites myself, I just wanted to say that anything is possible, like finding the love of your life on Hsoulmate.com even you have herpes, HPVor HIV.

    July 3, 2010 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. David

    This report claims the rate of STD infection for swingers of all ages is 4% above that for nonswingers, according to the study results. For gay men it's 40% higher. That makes the swingers a very distant second! Depending on the margin of error, swingers' rate of infection is likely to be just the same as that for nonswingers. Also, why does the author of the article give the PERCENTAGE of all STD cases for swingers 45 and older, and not the rate of infection for the group "swingers over 45"? Probably because the rate of infection is much smaller and not as scary-sounding as "10.4%" ... perhaps 1% or less. The article claims older swingers have unsafe sexual habits, yet they likely have an infection rate much lower than younger people both swinging and nonswinging, so if they aren't practicing safe sex then they must be having many fewer encounters.

    July 6, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. David

    The number of swingers, and in particular older, 45 swingers, in the study wasn't anywhere near 9000. According to one lifestyle website 16% of US couples have tried it, so if that is accurate, we'd expect about 1400 swingers in the study. How many of those are 45 ? My guess is a substantial minority, since the lifestyle appeals to married people and not single people who can have new partners anytime with less criticism. As I claimed in my other comment, there is a reason the author never mentioned the STD infection rates of older swingers: the study was probably unable to detect any significant rate of STD among 45 swingers. That being said, your brainy critique is a big turn-on.

    July 6, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. JustJss

    The entire survey population is of people who were tested for STDs. Just how does this fit in with the concern that older people don't know enough to get tested? Swingers, in fact, are probably more likely to be tested regularly.


    July 6, 2010 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. nomoreh1b@yahoo.com

    The basic problem with this study:
    it was looking at folks that seek help at an STD clinic. It did NOT ask folks how long it had been since their last STD tests.

    Prostitutes in the netherlands that go to an STD clinic may be getting tested frequently (i.e. every month) because they know they are taking risks–and also some employers of prostitutes require regular testing. Straight folks and swingers are more likely to only go for STD testing when they have a symptom.

    Porn actors test monthly and have an STD incidence 20% that of the general population-because they end to catch stuff fast and treat it.

    July 13, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply


    October 31, 2011 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Swinger

    My Friend and I are swinger's,we are on a couple of swinger site's,Believe me hardly anyone uses condom's,I've caught STDs a couple of time's from people who claim they were disease free,luckly they were treatable.I'd like to quit swinging,but my friend seem's to thrive on it.He seem's to believe what ever he hear's from these swinger's,I don't,met alot of creep's.

    November 7, 2012 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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