A new report shows that rates of sexually transmitted diseases reached nearly 500,000 last year as the UK government urges younger people to have safer sex.

The new figure is a 5% increase from 2011 - up to 448,422 from 428,255 – according to new data from Public Health England (PHE) published today.

The continuing high STI rates in England suggest too many people are still putting themselves at risk through unsafe sex, especially young adults and men who have sex with men.

Chlamydia remained the most commonly diagnosed STI making up nearly half (46%) of all infections, but considerable numbers of genital warts (73,893 – 16%) and genital herpes (32,021 – 7%) cases were also reported last year.

New gonorrhoea diagnoses rose 21% overall and by 37% in the gay men population with nearly 11,000 cases

High gonorrhoea transmission rates are concerning as the global threat of antibiotic resistance grows. Ensuring treatment resistant strains of gonorrhoea do not persist and spread remains a public health priority for the government, which recently launched the Gonorrhoea Resistance Action Plan to help tackle this threat in early 2013.

Those aged under 25 experienced the highest STI rates, contributing 64% of all chlamydia and 54% of genital warts diagnoses in heterosexuals in 2012.

Young adults are now being advised to test for chlamydia annually or on change of sexual partner, as part of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme to control the infection and its complications.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, PHE head of STI surveillance, said, “There have been significant improvements in screening in recent years, particularly for gonorrhoea and chlamydia among young adults and men who have sex with men, so we are diagnosing and treating more infections than ever before.

“However, these data show too many people are continuing to have unsafe sex, put themselves at risk of STIs and the serious consequences associated with infection, including infertility. On-going investment in programmes to increase sexual health awareness, condom use and testing, particularly for groups at most risk, is vital.”