Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in King County and the United States as a whole, reports show, with more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in the U.S in 2016. The largest increase was seen in people ages 15 to 24.
This probably comes as no surprise to anyone over the age of 35. After all, millennials are the worst generation—just ask the internet. (So entitled!)
But the real reason STDs are on the rise in millennials is way more complicated than just labeling the generation a bunch of derelict non-condom users who do whatever they want, says H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about the actual details about how people are deciding about partnership and who they’re going to have sex and with or not and about condom use,” he says. “No expert can say we currently have all the explanation we need for the current rising STD rates.”
From a lack of proper sex education to advances in healthcare that are making it easier to choose sexual partners without fear, the true nature of the uptick is complicated.
Millennials probably aren’t just throwing caution to the wind
Chlamydia is the most common STD in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In King County, the rate of chlamydia was highest among 20- to 24-year-old women in 2015 and has been rising in that age group since 2007, according to a Public Health - Seattle & King County report. But rates have been on the decline among 15- to 19-year-olds since 2004.
National trends are similar: In 2016, there were 1,008,403 reported cases of chlamydia among 15- to 24-year-olds, which represents 63 percent of all reported cases, according to a CDC report.
This supports research that young people are waiting longer to have sex and having fewer partners, says Julie Dombrowski, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious diseases physician and deputy director of the Public Health – Seattle & King County HIV/STD program.