The Long-Term Effect of Having an STD Is Gender-Specific, Research Suggests

Are there gender-specific differences when it comes to having a sexually transmitted disease? We’ve already talked about the most common STDs among men and women. We’ve also discussed the ways in which such conditions impact men and women differently.

New research, however, suggests that the long-term effects of acquiring a sexually transmitted infections can also be different.

The Long-Term Impact of Having an STD

New research presented in March 2023 suggests that women lose more quality life years than men after acquiring an STD like gonorrhoea, chlamydia or trichomoniasis.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined the loss of quality-adjusted life years in the US by sex and age group. The term quality-adjusted life years (QALY) is a common measure of disease burden that takes in consideration both the quantity and the quality of life a person has after acquiring a certain condition.

Through their analysis, researchers found out that the QALYs lost due to an STD were highest for chlamydia (1,541 QALYs among all men studied and 111,872 QALYs lost among women), followed by gonorrhoea (989 QALYs for men, 12,112 QALYs for women) and trhichomoniasis (386 QALYs for men and 4,576 QALYs for women).

Even if you’re not a scientist, it’s pretty easy to see the incredibly big discrepancy of loss experienced by men and women.

Reasons Why the Effect Is So Disproportionately High for Women

There are a few logical explanations for this phenomenon.

Women tend to experience more serious and long-lasting reproductive problems as a result of an STD than men do. This is one of the primary contributors to the discrepancy.

The research suggests that QALY loss is most common among women due to chronic pelvic pain (in 75 per cent of the chlamydia cases and 78 per cent of the symptomatic trichomoniasis cases). For men urethritis was the most prominent contributor to the loss of QALYs.

Researchers conclude that we still don’t have good estimates of the total health burden that STDs have on the general population. The study quoted above, however, suggests that the impact of such conditions can be much more long-lasting and serious than considered.

The findings are very important, especially at a time when the rate of new infections is climbing in the US, as well as in various other parts of the world. Having a clearer understanding of the prolonged effects can help for resource prioritisation when it comes to awareness campaigns, prevention, healthcare planning and control policies.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one million new curable STD cases occur on a daily basis across the globe and among people aged 15 to 49. These numbers contribute to the staggering new 376 million infection cases on an annual basis.

Previous data on the topic was published in 2012 and since then, the world hasn’t achieved much progress in terms of reducing infection rates. Safe sexual practices, as well as timely testing are both vital prerequisites to slow down the rate of STD spreading. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness (especially among vulnerable segments of the population) play a major role in keeping infection rates high.

Given the fact that many STDs, including the three studied by the Harvard researchers, are asymptomatic for prolonged periods of time among many people, testing is the only viable way to determine if someone has acquired an infection.

Even the “Less Serious” STDs Can Reduce Life Quality

Gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and chlamydia can have lasting effects, especially when it comes to reproductive health. But even STDs that don’t lead to such serious negative outcomes can have a negative impact on one’s quality of life.

Research suggests that a herpes infection can also lead to a life quality loss.

Presented in Lancet Regional Health Americas in February 2023, the study suggests that the average loss of QALYs per person due to herpes is 18 days. Once again, the loss of life quality is higher among women than it is among men.

The burden of genital herpes isn’t shared solely among the individuals who contract the condition through sexual intercourse. About 7.93 per cent of the QALY loss was attributed to neonatal herpes passed on from mother to her newborn child. This is because newborn babies can experience neurological complications as a result of genital herpes being passed on from their mother.

The research hasn’t accounted for the indirect loss of life quality due to genital herpes. Herpes, for example, increases the risk of contracting HIV, which can easily contribute to significant additional loss of QALYs.

There’s no such thing as a harmless sexually transmitted infection. The sooner you know your status by way of STD testing, the better management you’ll get to employ even if the respective STD isn’t curable.

Men’s health facilities like Shim Clinic in Singapore offer readily available, confidential and accessible sexual health services. Whether you need screening or you’d just like a consultation with medical professionals, we have you covered. Contact Shim Clinic now or visit us during working hours every day of the week.