A swinger’s risk of sexually transmitted infections

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As well as skeeving us all out, swingers — couples who regularly swap partners at organized parties or clubs — may have rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) that are higher than those in high-risk groups, like female prostitutes, a Dutch study found. Middle-aged swingers, over the age of 45, were particularly vulnerable to disease.

Moreover, the authors of the study said in a statement, swingers, who by definition get around a lot, “may act as an STI transmission bridge to the entire population.”

The study, published online by the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, looked at about 9,000 patients who visited three sexual health clinics in South Limburg in the Netherlands between 2007 and 2008. It found that a full 12% of patients admitted to being swingers — ah, Europe! — and that 10.4% of these patients were diagnosed with either gonorrhea, Chlamydia or both. Female swingers were more likely to be infected than their male counterparts. This compares with infection rates of 14% among gay men, 10% in straight people and just under 5% in female prostitutes. (Prostitution is legal and regulated in the Netherlands.)

More than half of all diagnoses in patients over 45 were made in swingers, compared with about one-third in gay men. Overall, 1 in 10 older swingers had Chlamydia and 1 in 20 had gonorrhea, the study found. “While other risk groups for STIs, such as young [straight people] and [gay men] are systematically identified at STI heath-care facilities…this is generally not the case for swingers,” the authors said, suggesting that health-care providers may be missing a key target in curbing the spread of STIs.

So, if you’re wondering just how often middle-aged people are having wild and crazy sex, the Dutch study happened to coincide with a separate survey on that issue, by the helpful folks at Kwai Garlic, a manufacturer of health supplements in the U.K. The survey found that people over 45 were actually not terribly interested in sex, saying that it all started going downhill after age 40.

According to the 1,752 older adults who responded to Kwai’s questions, a major issue was lack of energy: 1 in 3 over-45s recalled having cut sex short because they were just too tired to continue. One in 20 said they feared that overly energetic love-making would put a strain on their heart. To bring some excitement back into their love lives, Kwai Garlic spokesman Iain Laing told the Daily Mail, middle-aged folks should start looking after their health. (Not that Kwai Garlic has any vested interest in people’s health-consciousness.)

Overall, according to the survey, the average 45-year-old makes love once a week for about 22 minutes, in a bedroom, with the lights off. It may not be the most exciting model around, but it probably beats the hell out of getting the clap. — By Belinda Luscombe