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

Reprod Health Matters. 2016 Nov;24(48):34-42. doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2016.10.003. Epub 2016 Nov 27.


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 of STIs"; "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 stigmatisation of STIs in older age groups.

Keywords: UK; heterosexual; knowledge; middle aged; qualitative research; sexually transmitted infections.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Heterosexuality
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Scotland
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • State Medicine