Chlamydia Statistics for the UK in 2014

Often called the Silent Disease, Chlamydia often goes under the radar because it often doesn’t produce any symptoms (14 signs of Chlamydia) in those it infects for many months or even years after it has been passed on. For this reason, the number of infections is on the rise year on year across the UK.

Young love

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While young people (9 Chlamydia statistics for teenagers) are particularly at risk of contracting the Chlamydia infection, people from other age groups are also seeing rising rates of infection following regular check-ups or the development of symptoms. However, even though the rates of infection are high, awareness of the infection still seems to be relatively low.

Through 2014, the rates of infection and diagnosis are expected to rise again as they have over recent years. Some of the increase in reports of Chlamydia infection may arise from the implementation of screening programmes but it still shows an underlying trend of high infection rates across the whole population of sexually active people in the UK.

Chlamydia and young people

Chlamydia (Hub page) is particularly prevalent amongst young people. As young people become sexually active, information and services often don’t keep up with them and they can end up unprotected and vulnerable to infections.

In England, the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) offers tests to all sexually active young people under the age of 25. The tests are free and if diagnosed expert advice is on offer on treatment, safe sex and future prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Young people are at high risk

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From April 2003 when the programme began through to September 2013 when the most recent figures are available, the programme had tested over 8 million young people for Chlamydia and diagnosed over half a million cases of Chlamydia in young people aged between 15 and 24. Of all the young people who took up testing, just fewer than 7 per cent were found to have the infection.

Since the programme began, the rates of testing – and therefore of recording – of Chlamydia infections in young people has increased. For this reason, it’s quite likely that the rates of infection amongst the under 25s looks higher than it would have done before the programme started.

However, Public Health England, who started the service, believes that while the recorded numbers have gone up, the programme has helped to reduce the overall numbers of young people with Chlamydia by treating those found to have the infection early and preventing them from passing it on to others. For this reason alone, it’s important to be cautious when looking at statistics. Sometimes an increase in numbers means something different to how it looks on first glance.

Chlamydia in the twenties and thirties

Unsurprisingly, a large number of Chlamydia diagnoses in England are made in people between the ages of 25 and 34 years of age. It is at this age that the greatest numbers of people in the population age group are likely to be sexually active and have multiple partners. However, the number of diagnoses in this group is still younger than those amongst teenagers and those in their early twenties and it is thought that a greater degree of knowledge, understanding and ability to take control of their own sexual health and wellbeing is likely to account for this difference.

Testing in these groups has shown high rates of Chlamydia infection has shown that rates of diagnosis in people of this age has remained relatively consistent as a proportion of the population for almost ten years. While rates of Chlamydia in teenagers and those in their early twenties have sky-rocketed, as stated above this could be in part due to the increased number of tests performed and better detection of the infection. There may be an argument for targeting people in their mid-twenties to thirties to raise awareness and increase testing. This may help to reduce the figure in the longer term.

Middle-aged infections

A surprising statistic shows that the rates of Chlamydia diagnosis amongst people in middle age are increasing. This could be explained by a number of things. The number of people separating from a long-term partner in their forties or fifties is increasing, and as people seek out new sexual partners they are potentially exposing themselves to risks of infection.

Arguably, some of the people at the older end of the age spectrum, particularly those in their fifties and even their sixties, did not have the same sex education as those who are younger and may have missed out on the safe sex messages that those in younger age groups received throughout school and in their early twenties.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

As mentioned above, it’s important to be cautious when using statistics. The rates of Chlamydia infection have rocketed in young people in the past ten years, but that is the level of recorded infection. Statistics are only able to present what is measured. If people previously weren’t being tested, the numbers would have looked lower.

What does it all mean?

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In some senses, the fact that the recorded numbers are going up could be seen as a good thing. The rates of Chlamydia being detected has increased, which allows more people to access the right treatments (5 Chlamydia medication) and rid themselves of the infection. As a larger proportion of the population are tested and receive appropriate treatment if they are diagnosed with Chlamydia, the rates of infection in the population will hopefully begin to fall and the chances of contracting it from a sexual partner will also drop.

However, in order to sustain that fall it’s important that people continue to be tested. Even if the numbers start to drop, it’s vital that there is no complacency about the rates of infection. Plus, Chlamydia is only one sexually transmitted infection that can be contracted from a partner. Practicing safe sex and ensuring regular testing is the only way to make sure that you keep yourself safe.

Conclusion

Statistics have shown a steady rise in the rate of Chlamydia infection over the past ten years with numbers expected to remain the same or increase again in 2014. This can, however, be seen as a positive step as more people come forward for the test that detects Chlamydia and allows it to be treated.

Image Credits: Pedro Simoes 7, Lynda Sanchez and Eric Fischer