A surge in gonorrhoea transmission rates among young people in Adelaide has been blamed on dating apps including Tinder, and could be an early indicator of a likely rise in other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), researchers say.
- A study has found the spread of gonorrhoea has accelerated in Adelaide
- It found a significant rise in transmission of the STI from 2012 to 2017
- A researcher says dating apps like Tinder have increased transmission among heterosexuals
A Flinders University investigation based on public health data found transmission rates of gonorrhoea in Adelaide more than doubled from 2012 to 2017.
The study, published in the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, also found the crude infection rate — the number of new cases per year — jumped from 21.9 per 100,000 people to 74 over the five years.
“This is probably something to do with changes in sexual behaviour,” Flinders University epidemiologist and co-author Dr Emma Miller said.
“The biggest social change in sexual behaviour has been the arrival of Tinder.”
Dr Miller said evidence suggested dating apps were causing an increase in short-term and often one-sided relationships, and dubbed the resulting rise in STI rates “tinderrhoea”.
“Because you don’t have a social connection with those people, there’s not as much attention paid to consequences and what might come afterwards,” she said.
“They seem to be associated, therefore, with unprotected sex.”
Significant rises were associated with low-income areas, and within high-risk populations.
“These people might not have as much access to health services, to preventive services, they might not have as much money to spend on actually going to gyms and occupying their time in ways that people from higher socio-economic areas can do,” she said.
It also uncovered significant rises in transmission rates among young heterosexuals.
“This study demonstrates the changing epidemiology of gonorrhoea in Adelaide from a largely men who have sex with men profile toward an increase in young heterosexual gonorrhoea,” the report stated.
Rise in infertility expected
Dr Miller said while the coronavirus pandemic had led to widespread social distancing, it could also have had the opposite effect on some, and may have increased the popularity of dating apps.
“There has been some recent information … that people are actually using those apps more than they were,” she said.
“It may be there is going to be an explosion of this once people are out and about.”
Dr Miller said, if the trend continues, it could have serious consequences for public health.
“If we don’t do something about it, we’re definitely going to have increase in infertility for women, and that’s a very expensive and tragic problem in itself,” she said.
“Having gonorrhoea actually makes you physically more prone to infection.”