Swipe right for a STI? Men who find sexual partners through smartphone apps were more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) than those who matched through either dating sites or in person at bars and clubs, reports a new study from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.
The study found those who use apps that match users to others based on their location, like Grindr or Tinder, were 23 percent more likely to have gonorrhea and 35 percent more likely to have chlamydia, than those who used websites or social gathers.
And while this study looked specifically at gay and bisexual men, the pattern would probably hold up for anyone using their phone to find casual sexual partners, regardless of gender or orientation, says Justin R. Garcia, Ph.D, assistant research scientist at Indiana University’s The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
“If someone is using a specific app for casual sex, it follows that they may have more sexual partners, which studies show increase your risk for STIs,” he explains. Roughly 20 percent of users report that “looking for a quick hookup” is a primary reason they use Tinder, according to a survey by marketing firm SessionM.
But the method you use to meet people isn’t nearly as relevant as the method you use for protection, Garcia adds. “Whether meeting someone for an anonymous hookup or having sex after several months of dating, condoms are the best way to protect against STIs,” he says. If you always use a condom, the risk for bacterial STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia is still quite low—even in casual sex, Garcia adds.