One in five 18 to 24-year-olds have contracted an STI from someone they met online

Original research by Zava has found that sexual health risks for young adults in the UK are increasing through the use of dating websites and apps.

18 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds have contracted an STI through the use of dating apps.

Young people in Scotland are the most likely in the UK to have contracted an STI from someone they met online (29 percent)

Overall, gay and bisexual young adults are more likely to get regularly tested for STIs (34 and 33 percent respectively) compared to straight people (28 percent)

With government statistics revealing that a case of gonorrhoea or chlamydia is diagnosed every four minutes in England, Zava has conducted research to determine the extent to which the rise of dating apps has contributed to the passing on of STIs. A survey of 2,000 18 to 24-year-olds examined the impact dating apps have had on their sexual health, as well as their motivations to undergo STI testing.

The research found that of those 2,000 young adults, 18 percent said they had contracted an STI from someone they had met online. 85 percent of the young adults questioned had used a dating app in the past, with 70 percent having been on Tinder.

The most common STI among young adults was chlamydia, with 10 percent of respondents contracting the infection from someone they had met online. However, despite the high rates of infection, two-thirds of young people said they felt informed about STIs.



The survey of 2,000 18-24 year-olds found that 85% have used dating apps. The most popular dating app among our respondents was Tinder, with 70% having used it, way ahead of Bumble (6%), Grindr (4%), Happn (2%) and Hinge (1%).

Of those 2,000 respondents, 18% said they had caught an STI from someone they had met online. Chlamydia was the most common STI, with 10% of 18-24 year-olds catching the infection as a result of a meeting arranged through a dating app.

The study revealed significant disparities between regions and sexuality. Young adults in Scotland were the most likely to have contracted an STI from someone they met on a dating app, while those in Wales were the least likely. Those in rural areas were more likely to have contracted an STI, with a lack of information or less convenient access to sexual health clinics potentially playing a part.

In terms of STI testing, one in -five of those surveyed said they get tested when starting a new relationship, with a further 20 percent regularly testing themselves for sexually transmitted infections at home. On the whole, those who are gay and bisexual are more likely to get tested (34 and 33 percent respectively) for STIs than their heterosexual counterparts (28 percent). 

The research also found that public advertising isn’t currently motivating young people to get tested, with just 5 percent of the general population and 12 percent of gay people getting tested as a result of a campaign they’ve seen.

Dr Kathryn Basford from Zava said: “STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be symptomless, so young people could be carrying infections and passing them on without their knowledge. The practice of deleting profiles and changing apps means daters cannot always inform their previous sexual partners if they are diagnosed with an infection later on. As a result, STIs present a real threat to young people, and without using condoms, they will continue to put themselves and their partners at risk.”





In terms of STI testing, it seems that for young people, the decision to get tested isn’t related to public service advertising. Only 5% of the general population and 12% of people who identify as gay reported that public service advertisements were their primary reason for getting tested. Overall, people who identify as gay or bisexual are more likely to get tested for STIs (34% and 33% respectively) than their straight counterparts (28%).

Commenting on the findings, Dr Kathryn Basford of Zava, said: “Both gonorrhoea and chlamydia are bacterial infections that can have serious health consequences if they remain untreated. Prevention is much better than treatment, so we advise all young adults meeting people online to use a barrier contraceptive like condoms, femidoms, or dental dams. Not only can barrier contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies, unlike other forms of contraception they also reduce the risk of contracting an STI.”

“If you think you might have an STI, the symptoms to look out for include discharge from the vagina or penis, a burning sensation while urinating and a painful, burning sensation in the affected area. If you experience any of these symptoms, either visit a sexual health clinic or order a discreet online test as soon as you can. However, STIs like chlamydia can also be symptomless, so it’s really important you get tested regularly. If you test positive for an STI, Zava can anonymously contact partners on your behalf”.

Offering discreet and convenient healthcare online, Zava specialises in providing medical treatment to patients wherever and whenever they require it. With no need to book an appointment or see a doctor in person, fully qualified medical experts offer their advice online and patients can receive a home delivery of the treatment they need.


Additional sources Public Health England Report – ‘Sexually transmitted infections and screening for chlamydia in England 2017: Health Protection Report, Volume 12, Number 20 – 8 June 2018’

Technology Review – ‘First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society’, 10 October 2017

The Mirror, ‘Dating apps blamed for rise in SYPHILIS – along with UK’s heatwave’, 24 August 2018