Grindr and Scruff May Be to Blame for Higher STD Rates, Study Suggests

A new study bound to vindicate all dating-app cynics out there has found a significant correlation between smartphone apps like Grindr and STD risk. The research, conducted by the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles,found that gay and bisexual men who use these sex-on-demand apps are significantly more likely to pick up certain sexually transmitted diseases, in comparison with gay and bi men who met their sexual partners at a bar or a club. Which makes sense, really: easy, on-demand sex doesn't necessarily correlate with safety.

The study, published June 12 in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, looked at roughly 7,200 local gay and bi men, all of whom were self-identified as HIV-negative and tested for STDs between August 2011 and January 2013. The researchers found that 36 percent of these L.A. locals use primarily smartphone apps (like Grindr and Scruff) to meet their partners; roughly 34 percent meet men in person, at a club or a bar. Only 30 percent used a combo of in-person and online dating websites (like Manhunt, for instance).

The findings were pretty significant, if perhaps unsurprising — men who used apps like Grindr to meet their sex-mates were a whopping 40 percent more likely to have gonorrhea, compared with the group of men who used dating websites. In comparison with guys who met their partners in person, those used the apps were 35 percent more likely to get chlamydia and 23 percent more likely to be infected with gonorrhea.

“Technological advances which improve the efficiency of meeting anonymous sexual partners may have the unintended effect of creating networks of individuals where users may be more likely to have sexually transmissible infections than other, relatively less efficient social networking methods,” the researchers wrote in a press release.

The results fit with findings from other research. For instance, a smaller study, published last year by New York’s non-profit Community Healthcare Network, found that nearly 50 percent of men who use dating apps like Grindr, Scruff, Manhunt and Growlr, admitted to having unprotected sex at least once — most, it appeared, because "with condoms it does not feel the same.” Interestingly, though, Thursday's study found that the risk of getting HIV or syphilis wasn't similarly affected by the use (or non-use) of dating apps. In fact, the method of sex-mate-finding had no effect whatsoever on those particular STIs.

So what gives? A recent CDC report found that 67 percent of gay or bi men reported testing for HIV in the past 12 months, so it could be that the majority of men on social dating apps are just aware of their HIV-status, and therefore engaging in the appropriate behavior. Either way, the study is limited — obviously, the results might be very different for those living outside of L.A., and especially for those living outside of a big city.