Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are ramping up at a stunning rate in Australia, according to recent health data from the Kirby Institute.
Over the past decade, gonorrhoea cases have more than doubled, rising from 8388 cases in 2006 to 18,588 cases in 2015. Similarly, cases of syphilis have more than tripled over the past decade while cases of chlamydia have increased by 43 per cent.
While there are a number of factors at play here – condom use, increased travel and more accurate diagnostic testing could explain some of these increases – many experts are pointing to the proliferation of online dating sites and apps as the single biggest reason STIs are exploding.
At one level, these apps simply mean more people are having more sex.
A recent UK study found 35 per cent of sexually active men and 21 per cent of sexually active women reported five or more sexual partners in a year. Men who found partners online, meanwhile, were six times more likely to have five or more sexual partners than those who didn't, and women who dated online were seven times more likely.
As Dr Denton Callander, a sexual health researcher at the University of NSW, told the ABC: “This difference is important because the number of sexual partners you have is strongly correlated with your likelihood of getting an STI.”
But online dating apps don’t simply mean more people are having sex – according to Callander they’re also breaking down traditional social groupings. While once STI’s may have been, for example, more prevalent in the young and less likely in the old, now increased overlap between the groups means the infections spread exponentially.
“In our hyperconnected world,” Callander told the ABC, “the chance you'll sleep with someone quite different from you — older, younger or something else entirely — is greater than at any point in our history.”
Concerned your online activity could be opening you up to STIs? Here’s your number-one strategy for avoiding infection.