Sexual Health Mapped | STI Hotspots UK - Fresh Student Living

Sexual Health Mapped: STI Hotspots Across the UK

Sexual health and STIs in the UK


Brits between the ages of 18 and 24 have more sex than any other age group in the country, coupling up around 3.2 times a week, on average. And while loads of sex can be positive and healthy, most people in the UK don’t think of themselves as high-risk for STIs, which can lead to dangerous behaviour, like unprotected sex.

In fact, up to 70% of men and 85% of women in the UK have admitted to having unprotected sex, and actions like these can lead to a rise in STIs. While 2020 figures are yet to be released by Public Health England, last year showed a 5% increase in STIs in the country, with almost 44,800 new cases being reported in just 12 months.

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.


STI hotspots


STI Hotspots by City

Eight of the top ten cities with the most STIs in the country are popular student cities, with chlamydia and gonorrhoea being the two most diagnosed. Taking the top spot for the poorest sexual health is the City of London, which has an STI rate more than ten times higher than Bradford, the city with the fewest cases in the country.

Cities with the highest number of STIs per 100,000 people:

  1. London – 5,319 cases
  2. Westminster – 1,660 cases
  3. Southampton – 1,170 cases
  4. Manchester – 1,143 cases
  5. Brighton – 1,138 cases
  6. Portsmouth – 1, 043 cases
  7. Nottingham – 1, 042 cases
  8. Salford – 1.007 cases
  9. Liverpool – 1,005 cases
  10. Leeds – 988 cases
  11. Newcastle – 912 cases

The most common STIs are chlamydia and gonorrhoea, with the highest number of cases in the City of London, at 2,535 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.

Cities with the lowest number of STIs per 100,000 people:

  1. Worcester – 335 cases
  2. Cambridge – 422 cases
  3. Exeter – 423 cases
  4. Norwich – 444 cases
  5. Canterbury – 447 cases
  6. Oxford – 461 cases
  7. Bath – 466 cases
  8. Wakefield – 479 cases
  9. Durham – 480 cases
  10. Bradford – 491 cases

Chlamydia is the most prominent 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.

Most common STIs in the UK

Most Searched STIs in the UK in the Last 12 Months:

STIs the UK has been most curious about in the last year include chlamydia, genital herpes, scabies, trichomoniasis, syphilis, public lice, HPV and gonorrhoea. UK cities performing the most searches for info on STIs and their symptoms include:


Place Top STI Google Search
Leeds chlamydia
Liverpool gonorrhoea
Manchester HPV
London syphilis
Edinburgh HPV
Birmingham HPV
Sheffield herpes
Glasgow chlamydia
Bristol herpes
Cardiff herpes

STI Google Searches Skyrocket After Lockdown

Dating and hanging out took a nosedive between March and May as the UK followed social distancing during peak lockdown. Coincidentally, as restrictions eased and people started mingling again, Google searches for certain STIs skyrocketed.

  • Searches for chlamydia plunged by 78% during peak lockdown (March-May) compared to the previous three months, but then skyrocketed by 109% post-lockdown (June – August).
  • Google searches for scabies dipped by 28% during lockdown, then increased by 22% when the country started socialising again.
  • As lockdown eased, Google searches for syphilis increased by 40%. However, searches for this STI have been steadily rising since the start of 2020.
  • The STI that received the most Google searches during peak lockdown was HPV, which rose by 39% between March-May compared to the three months before.


STI Google Searches in the UK


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. 

How Will This Affect Freshers’ Week in 2020?

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, with research showing that around 25% of first-year students are likely to pick up an STI.

For most students, however, post-COVID Freshers’ Week is set to look very different this September. In place of pub crawls, boozy club nights and hedonistic parties packed to the brim with bodies, this year’s Fresher’s Week is set to be slightly toned down and significantly socially distanced. With activity limited to social bubbles and distinct lack of wild parties, sex is likely to be dialed down significantly for uni students this year.

Instead of getting up close and personal, unis around the country are planning a range of virtual events, like live music sets, yoga classes, movie nights and comedy sessions, as well as open-air food markets and cinema nights where students can safely keep a social distance while still getting to grips with their new surroundings.

Stay safe! Find your closest sexual health clinic.

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