Sexual Health Mapped: STI Hotspots Across the UK

  |     |   Health & Wellbeing

Across the UK, statistics has shown young people within the ages of 18 to 24 are having more sex than any other age group in the country, coupling around 3.2 times a week, on average. And while loads of sex can be a positive and healthy, its proven that there is small population of people who don’t know how to have safe sex or don’t see themselves as high-risk for STIs.

Up until April 2021, 619 out of 100,000 people under the age of 25 in England has been diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea. To find out more, we looked at some of the UK’s most populated cities to identify some of the country’s biggest hotspots and their most common STIs.

UK cities with the highest numbers of STIs per 100,000 people



STIs per 100,000 people























The most common STIs are chlamydia and gonorrhoea, with the highest number of cases in Bath, at 1,747 cases per 100,000 people.


The syphilis rate is much lower, at 131 cases per 100,000 people. On the other hand, syphilis rates are much higher in Southampton, with 764 confirmed cases for every 100,000 people. Rates for this STI are also high in Brighton and Portsmouth.


UK cities with the lowest numbers of STIs per 100,000 people



STIs per 100,000 People

Newcastle upon Tyne





















Chlamydia is the most common STI in eight of the ten cities with the fewest number of STIs overall, followed by genital warts, which impacts five of the ten cities analysed.

The prevalence of STIs in the UK is increasing

  • The most common STI receiving the most Google searches in the UK this year was chlamydia, at an ultimate high of 74,000 searches per month, followed by gonorrhoea (27,100 searches per month), HPV (14,800 searches per month), syphilis (22,200 searches per month) and herpes (33,100 searches per month).
  • Search trend data shows a 4% increase in searches for STIs between 2021 and 2022.
  • The top 3 cities searching for ‘sexual health’ are Croydon, Thornhill and Salford.

Why is Sexual Health Important?

Sexual health should be a priority in your life from the moment you start being sexually active. This includes taking care of your physical health by getting regular check-ups and being more educated about your body, as well as your mental health, by ensuring you know your rights and have access to the resources you need. Your sexual health should revolve around physical and mental wellbeing, sexual positivity, and safety. Neglecting it can have an impact on your happiness, and result in things like unwanted pregnancies and STIs.

Common Questions About STIs

What does STI stand for?

STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. It also used to be known as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but this was changed as not all sexually transmitted infections turn into a disease. An STI is typically passed from one person to another during sex. An STI can be transmitted whether you have sex once or numerous times, and can impact everyone, no matter your sexual orientation or gender.

Can you get an STI without having sex?

Yes. While STIs are predominantly passed through sexual contact, there are other ways that infections can be transmitted. Skin-on-skin contact can lead to an STI if someone has genital warts or open sores from syphilis. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be transmitted through oral sex and sharing razors or needles can lead to the transmission of blood-borne infections like HIV or hepatitis.

How do you know if you have an STI?

Some STIs produce no symptoms at all, and for those that do the symptoms differ. However, if you experience any of the following, you should get a check-up immediately.

  • Unusual discharge
  • Pain when urinating
  • Blisters, sores or rashes in the genital area
  • Unexplained lumps or pain in the genital area

How often should I get my sexual health checked?

This largely depends on how sexually active you are. If you have no regular partner and only have casual sex, you should get checked at least every six months. If you have several sexual partners, it's a good idea to get checked more regularly, so aim for two to three-month check-ups. Find out more about what to expect in a sexual health check-up.

Can you get an STI from kissing?

You can get STIs from kissing: the most common infections are herpes simplex virus (HSV) and cytomegalovirus (CMS). Whether you’ve been with your partner for a long time or just met someone new, it’s still important to remember to stay safe and keep your lips clean and smooch ready.

If you’re worried about catching an STI don’t be afraid to communicate your worries with your partner and schedule an STI test.

How Will This Affect Freshers' Week in 2022?

Freshers' Week has long been a rite of passage for first-year uni students looking to have fun, blow off some steam and get to grips with their newfound freedom away from home. Unsurprisingly, it's also one of the most common times for new students to visit a sexual health clinic.


Previously, research showed that around 25% of first-year students are likely to pick up an STI. Since then, data shows that searches for STIs have increased around 5%, suggesting nearly 30% of students will pick up an STI this Freshers’ Week.


With all the excitement building up, it’s likely that Freshers’ Week will be filled with meeting new people and dancing the night away at top nightclub events. While we expect you to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity, please also remember to stay safe!


For more information on how to stay sexually safe, find your closest sexual health clinic.




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