New research suggests that rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among older people are linked to a worrying lack of contraception.
A study of heterosexual partnerships among British men and women by a team at University College London Hospital's Centre for Sexual Health & HIV Research found that a high proportion of people do not use condoms when sleeping with a new partner for the first time.
Just over half of all new partnerships involved condom use, but this was found to decline with age.
While 68 per cent of men and 67.4 per cent of women in the 16 to 19 age group used a condom with a new partner, just 38.1 per cent of 35 to 44-year-old men and 28.8 per cent of women in this older age group claimed to use a condom when sleeping with a new partner.
Lead researcher Dr Catherine Mercer commented: "Half of new partnerships did not use condoms at first sex, even when this was a non-regular partner, and condoms were not used in one third of cases when first sex was within 24 hours of first meeting."
The study authors concluded that, instead of targeting public health campaigns primarily at young people, the importance of condom use must be promoted to all age groups.
According to the Family Planning Association (fpa), condoms are 98 per cent effective if used correctly.