Back on the Market: Condom Use by the Over 50s

Project dates: 2015 - 2019

Older adult consumer markets are a key target for social marketing sexual health initiatives as they are finding themselves single due to death, separation or divorce of a spouse and may still retain beliefs that sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and AIDs are only relevant to homosexual or younger consumer markets. Their distinctive life history has resulted in a demographic that is confident in who they are and what they expect regarding sex and sexuality within a traditional relationships and with little awareness of the changing health environment.

They are therefore re-entering the dating market with liberal sexual attitudes, limited risk perceptions and possibly no experience of condom use or negotiation. Understanding these life experiences and the role and context that condoms have played in developing older adults sexual scripts is vital for explaining heterosexual older adult condom use behaviour and the development of social marketing programs in this area.  The literature and rising incidence of STIs (Family Planning Association 2010; WHO 2016) indicates that heterosexual older adult consumer markets are engaging in frequent risky sexual behaviour and therefore the dominant theories and models of health behaviour used to develop STI initiates for younger consumer markets need to be critiqued for their relevance to an older market. The dominant emphasis on contraception and youth consumer markets reveals a gap in both the health and marketing literature surrounding the barriers and motivators of older adult condom use behaviour.

To explore the key barriers and facilitators of condom use by heterosexual mature consumers, a research masters thesis in social marketing at QUT was commenced. To date there have been 24 in-depth interviews conducted with 24 Australian single consumers over the age of 50 who were sexually active.  The data is currently being analysed with completion due in early 2018. The results of this study will be used to inform public sector social marketing campaigns to reduce STI’s and increase condom use in the over 50’s market as well as can be used by commercial organizations supplying goods and services in the sexual health field.


Guiding Theory:

  • Social Cognitive Theory


The study was also covered by AAP and 612 ABC.



Natalie Bowring (start at 04:48) discusses sexual health and an aging population.