By: Trevor Wheelwright

The golden years can be full of surprises, and that includes the romance department. We dug into the statistics surrounding online dating and sexually transmitted disease rates among baby boomers to see what we could find.

Logging on to love

The world keeps turning toward the digital information era, and baby boomers are no exception. Since 2013, when only 6% of 55 to 64-year-olds used dating sites, baby boomers’ use of online dating has doubled  to 12% in 2015.1

“I think it’s great that baby boomers are online and it is equally wonderful that they are reaching out to find connection, relationships and sex. Too often our culture depicts relationships, sex and love as the sole province of the young. These are human desires through all stages of life. In fact lack of social connection can lead to and exacerbate poor quality of health, loneliness and depression. It is great that the internet is providing older Americans an accessible way to connect to others.”

—Sharon R. Thompson, M.D., MPH, FACOG

Up to 15% of baby boomers believe that dating sites are the best places to meet someone to date, and 57% are comfortable with using dating sites.2 According to Pew Research, 85% of boomers use the internet, and 11% of those primarily use their phone for access.3

seniors and online dating

Baby boomers have also increased their Facebook use from 50% in 2015 up to 60% in 2019.4 The Facebook dating app launched in the US during 2019, which could cause an even greater increase in baby boomers looking for love online in the coming years.

But, along with online dating, we’re seeing the STD rates increase too.

Baby boomers and STDs

std rates

In just a few short years, the STD rates have essentially doubled for baby boomers. Gonorrhea alone nearly tripled from 2014 to 2018 in the 55–64 age group.

gonorrhea rates in seniors

STD cases per year for 55–64 years

20142015201620172018
Chlamydia6,5277,7569,32111,35612,536
Gonorrhea4,5496,0358,13810,86712,091
Syphilis8971,1531,4181,5861,929
Totals11,97314,94418,87723,80926,556

Based on 2018 reports from the CDC5

STD cases per year for 65 years and older

20142015201620172018
Chlamydia1,4491,5961,7722,1782,331
Gonorrhea9111,1911,5992,0632,332
Syphilis176207279349437
Totals2,5362,9943,6504,5905,100

Based on 2018 reports from the CDC8

In the 65 years and older crowd, Syphilis saw roughly a 60% increase between 2014 and 2018, and Gonorrhea has more than doubled.

Since baby boomers came of age, sex has undergone many cultural, pharmaceutical, and technological transformations. The advent of online dating is possibly a factor in why we’re seeing an increase in STDs among older adults, but we can’t assume that’s the sole cause.

“Seniors face the same challenges as young people when it comes to sexual health– lack of appropriate sex education and difficulty communicating about awkward or difficult topics. In addition, older adults may be associating risk of STDs with risk of pregnancy and believe that since they are past one the other is not relevant either. This can lead to unintended consequences like increasing STD rates.”

—Sharon R. Thompson, M.D., MPH, FACOG

Methodology

We looked at the number of baby boomers over the age of 55+ who were being diagnosed each year since 2014, according to the CDC, in order to find the rate baby boomers were getting STDs. We also looked at how many users between the ages of 55-64 were engaged in online dating from 2013-2015.

The bottom line

Cases of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis in baby boomers are on the rise, so what can you do about it? We advise everyone to regularly talk to their doctors about good sexual health practices, along with proper diet and exercise.

“We all have a role to play in the solution. I always say the biggest sex organ is inside your skull. Individuals can help themselves by educating themselves using reliable sites like CDC.gov or healthinaging.org; speaking up to their health care providers about questions they may have; and talking to new partners about being safer in sex.”

—Sharon R. Thompson, M.D., MPH, FACOG

Whether you’re with your highschool sweetheart or have found new love, make sure you’re giving your partner your best.