Socio-cultural influences upon knowledge of sexually transmitted infections: a qualitative study with heterosexual middle-aged adults in Scotland

Jenny Dalrymple, Joanne Booth, Paul Flowers, Sharron Hinchliff, Karen Lorimer

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There has been a recent global increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV among adults aged over 45. Limited evidence exists regarding middle-aged adults’ knowledge of STIs other than HIV. This qualitative study sought to understand middle-aged adults’ knowledge of STIs within a socio-cultural context. Individual interviews, based on a life-course approach, were conducted with 31 recently sexually active heterosexual men and women. Participants were aged between 45 and 65 and of mixed relationship status (14 were single, 17 in a relationship). Thematic analysis identified four key findings, including: ‘engagement with STI-related knowledge’; ‘general knowledge levels; ‘learning about STIs from children’; and, ‘limited application of knowledge’. The findings allow insight into a neglected area, and indicate that socio-cultural factors influence middle-aged adults’ STI-related knowledge acquisition throughout the life course. These are important implications for the prevention of STIs, particularly in addressing the on-going stigmatization of STIs in older age groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-42
JournalReproductive Health Matters
Issue number48
Early online date27 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • sexually transmitted infections
  • middle-aged adults
  • Scotland

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