Huge spike in STIs among college-aged Canadians— are dating apps to blame?

Hookup culture—also described as casual sexual encounters—is becoming more and more common among college-aged students. Sexually transmitted infections are on a significant rise in young adults aged 15-24. The World Health Organization says all STI’s have been increasing over the past 20 years.

Stats Canada reports that chlamydia is the most common diagnosis of STIs in Canada, with rates increasing 49.3% from 2005-2014. In cases from 2016, individuals aged 15-24 make up the most reported cases of chlamydia, with almost 2000 reported cases among 15-19-year-olds, and nearly 2,500 cases among 20-24-year-olds.

Nancy Hills, who graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in Family Studies and Human Development, says that sex education only goes so far:

“It’s something I find very fascinating, because in a generation where everything has become so easily accessible—including sexual health resources—I would have thought that young people would be more eager to protect themselves.”

Condoms and other forms of protection are available at any local health clinic.

However, it seems as though the opposite is true. With the rise of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and more, casual sex is becoming more and more common. eHarmony found that a quarter of all Canadians (36%—aged 18-34) have tried online dating and 16% report that they have had sexual intercourse with someone they met online.  

Though there have been no studies to prove the theory that increased use of dating apps are responsible for the spike in STIs, The Huffington Post reports that these apps are sometimes utilized for casual sex. 

Hills reasons that this generation’s desire for instant gratification is a key contributor as to why “hookup culture” is on the rise, especially among college-aged students:

 “Everyone is just a text away, a Snapchat away, a swipe away. It isn’t hard, especially on a college or university campus, to find someone who is also looking for a no-strings-attached encounter.”

Apps like Bumble, Tinder and Hinge have becoming increasingly popular for casual sex in the last few years.

The three most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infections are chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. For all of these STIs, the most common symptom is no symptom at all. However, if symptoms are present, they usually include a burning sensation during urination as well as pain during sexual intercourse. 

Tammy Datars, Manager of health clinics at Sheridan College, says that women are commonly more symptomatic than men and as a result, get diagnosed more:

 “It isn’t that women are having unprotected sex more often. Typically, they show more symptoms, and because of that, they get tested more frequently and get diagnosed with an STI. There is no gender that is shown to get diagnosed more than another.”

Datars encourages young people to get tested at a clinic after every new sexual encounter. Even though conversations about a sexual partner’s history may be uncomfortable, they are necessary:

“Your health comes first. You need to be aware of their history so that you can protect yourself.”

 STI testing is free and can be confidential if needed. Individuals who are sexually active are encouraged to use a barrier, such as condom, during sex and get tested frequently.

            For more information on safe sex and STI testing, click here.