Sexual Health Sexual Health Society
Publishing on sexual health from the widest perspective
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Characteristics of heterosexual regular relationships among a representative sample of adults: the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships

Paul B. Badcock A B , Anthony M. A. Smith A H , Juliet Richters C I , Chris Rissel D , Richard O. de Visser E , Judy M. Simpson F and Andrew E. Grulich G
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.

B Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, 35 Poplar Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

C School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

D Sydney School of Public Health, Charles Perkins Centre (D17), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

E School of Psychology, Pevensey 1, University of Sussex, Falmer BN1 9QH, UK.

F Sydney School of Public Health, Edward Ford Building (A27), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

G Kirby Institute, Wallace Wurth Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

H Deceased.

I Corresponding author. Email: j.richters@unsw.edu.au

Sexual Health 11(5) 427-438 https://doi.org/10.1071/SH14114
Submitted: 16 June 2014  Accepted: 6 September 2014   Published: 7 November 2014

Abstract

Background: The aim of this study was to describe important characteristics of Australian adults’ heterosexual regular sexual relationships and examine how these characteristics have changed since 2002. Methods: Computer-assisted landline and mobile telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 20 094 Australian residents aged 16–69 years. The participation rate among eligible people was 66.2%. Data were collected on respondents’ social and demographic characteristics, relationship status and duration, cohabitation status, partner’s age, contraception use, expectations about sexual exclusivity, sexual partners in the previous year, actual and ideal frequencies of sex and levels of physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction in their relationships. Results: Most sexually active respondents 89%; 74% of all respondents, were in a heterosexual regular relationship. Most (97%) expected sexual exclusivity in their relationships, with 3% reporting extradyadic sex in the previous year. Respondents reported an average frequency of sex of 1.44 times per week, with most reporting very high levels of physical pleasure (men, 88%; women, 76%) and emotional satisfaction (men, 86%; women, 84%) in their relationships. Comparisons with data from the First Australian Study of Health and Relationships revealed that significantly more sexually active men were in a relationship in the current survey; that respondents’ average frequency of sex was significantly lower; and that women’s reports of extreme emotional satisfaction had risen. Otherwise, results were consistent with those of the first study. Conclusions: In general, results suggested that the characteristics of Australians’ heterosexual relationships changed little between 2002 and 2013. Despite a decline in respondents’ average weekly frequency of sex, the majority of respondents reported being in a highly satisfying, sexually exclusive relationship.

Additional keywords: frequency of sex, relationship satisfaction, sexual exclusivity, sexual health, sexual infidelity, sexual satisfaction.


References

[1]  Rissel CE, Richters J, Grulich AE, de Visser RO, Smith AM. Sex in Australia: selected characteristics of regular sexual relationships. Aust N Z J Public Health 2003; 27 124–30.
Sex in Australia: selected characteristics of regular sexual relationships.CrossRef | 14696702PubMed |

[2]  Christensen BS, Grønbaek M, Osler M, Pedersen BV, Graugaard C, Frisch M. Sexual dysfunctions and difficulties in Denmark: prevalence and associated sociodemographic factors. Arch Sex Behav 2011; 40 121–32.
Sexual dysfunctions and difficulties in Denmark: prevalence and associated sociodemographic factors.CrossRef | 20169469PubMed |

[3]  Herbenick D, Reece M, Schick V, Sanders SA, Dodge B, Fortenberry JD. Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health status among adult women in the United States: results from a national probability sample. J Sex Med 2010; 7 277–90.
Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health status among adult women in the United States: results from a national probability sample.CrossRef | 21029385PubMed |

[4]  Johnson AM, Mercer CH, Erens B, Copas AJ, McManus S, Wellings K, et al Sexual behaviour in Britain: partnerships, practices, and HIV risk behaviours. Lancet 2001; 358 1835–42.
Sexual behaviour in Britain: partnerships, practices, and HIV risk behaviours.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BD3MjgtVCmtw%3D%3D&md5=1e3b40ecde11ae45c30d7d4426b17ab3CAS | 11741621PubMed |

[5]  Layte RD, McGee HP, Quail A, Rundle K, Cousins G, Donnelly CD, et al. The Irish study of sexual health and relationships. Main report. Dublin: Crisis Pregnancy Agency, and Department of Health and Children (DOHC); 2006.

[6]  Mercer CH, Tanton C, Prah P, Erens B, Sonnenberg P, Clifton S, et al Changes in sexual attitudes and lifestyles in Britain through the life course and over time: findings from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal). Lancet 2013; 382 1781–94.
Changes in sexual attitudes and lifestyles in Britain through the life course and over time: findings from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal).CrossRef | 24286784PubMed |

[7]  Reece M, Herbenick D, Schick V, Sanders SA, Dodge B, Fortenberry JD. Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health among adult men in the United States: results from a national probability sample. J Sex Med 2010; 7 291–304.
Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health among adult men in the United States: results from a national probability sample.CrossRef | 21029386PubMed |

[8]  Vanwesenbeeck I, Bakker F, Gesell S. Sexual health in the Netherlands: main results of a population survey among Dutch adults. Int J Sex Health 2010; 22 55–71.
Sexual health in the Netherlands: main results of a population survey among Dutch adults.CrossRef |

[9]  Smith AMA, Rissel CE, Richters J, Grulich AE, de Visser RO. Sex in Australia: the rationale and methods of the Australian Study of Health and Relationships. Aust N Z J Public Health 2003; 27 106–17.
Sex in Australia: the rationale and methods of the Australian Study of Health and Relationships.CrossRef |

[10]  Wellings K, Collumbien M, Slaymaker E, Singh S, Hodges Z, Patel D, et al Sexual behaviour in context: a global perspective. Lancet 2006; 368 1706–28.
Sexual behaviour in context: a global perspective.CrossRef | 17098090PubMed |

[11]  Richters J, Heywood W, Pitts MK, Shelley JM, Simpson JM, Patrick K, et al Who’s cheating? Agreements about sexual exclusivity and subsequent concurrent partnering in Australian heterosexual couples. Sex Health 2014;
Who’s cheating? Agreements about sexual exclusivity and subsequent concurrent partnering in Australian heterosexual couples.CrossRef | 25297799PubMed |

[12]  Adimora AA, Schoenbach VJ, Doherty IA. Concurrent sexual partnerships among men in the United States. Am J Public Health 2007; 97 2230–7.
Concurrent sexual partnerships among men in the United States.CrossRef | 17971556PubMed |

[13]  Adimora AA, Schoenbach VJ, Taylor EM, Khan MR, Schwartz RJ. Concurrent partnerships, nonmonogamous partners, and substance use among women in the United States. Am J Public Health 2011; 101 128–36.
Concurrent partnerships, nonmonogamous partners, and substance use among women in the United States.CrossRef | 20724694PubMed |

[14]  Richters J, Grulich AE, de Visser RO, Smith AM, Rissel CE. Sex in Australia: sexual and emotional satisfaction in regular relationships and preferred frequency of sex among a representative sample of adults. Aust N Z J Public Health 2003; 27 171–9.
Sex in Australia: sexual and emotional satisfaction in regular relationships and preferred frequency of sex among a representative sample of adults.CrossRef | 14696708PubMed |

[15]  Field N, Mercer CH, Sonnenberg P, Tanton C, Clifton S, Mitchell KR, et al Associations between health and lifestyles in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Lancet 2013; 382 1830–44.
Associations between health and lifestyles in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3).CrossRef | 24286788PubMed |

[16]  Haavio-Mannila E, Kontula O. Correlates of increased sexual satisfaction. Arch Sex Behav 1997; 26 399–419.
Correlates of increased sexual satisfaction.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaK2szpsFOgtQ%3D%3D&md5=66c2c5e136aadfccdb6f4cf1a3fa1bacCAS | 9251837PubMed |

[17]  Ventegodt S. Sex and the quality of life in Denmark. Arch Sex Behav 1998; 27 295–307.
Sex and the quality of life in Denmark.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaK1c3mslCktQ%3D%3D&md5=ddbd021a5378e975e62f53bf6e6e06fcCAS | 9604118PubMed |

[18]  Laumann EO, Gagnon JH, Michael RT, Michaels S. The social organization of sexuality: sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1994.

[19]  Laumann EO, Paik A, Glasser DB, Kang JH, Wang T, Levinson B, et al A cross-national study of subjective sexual well-being among older women and men: findings from the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors. Arch Sex Behav 2006; 35 143–59.
A cross-national study of subjective sexual well-being among older women and men: findings from the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors.CrossRef |

[20]  Smith A, Lyons A, Ferris J, Richters J, Pitts M, Shelley J, et al Sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual men and women: the importance of desired frequency of sex. J Sex Marital Ther 2011; 37 104–15.
Sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual men and women: the importance of desired frequency of sex.CrossRef | 21400335PubMed |

[21]  Bodenmann G, Ledermann T, Bradbury TN. Stress, sex, and satisfaction in marriage. Pers Relatsh 2007; 14 551–69.
Stress, sex, and satisfaction in marriage.CrossRef |

[22]  Santtila P, Wager I, Witting K, Harlaar N, Jern P, Johansson A, et al Discrepancies between sexual desire and sexual activity: gender differences and associations with relationship satisfaction. J Sex Marital Ther 2007; 34 31–44.
Discrepancies between sexual desire and sexual activity: gender differences and associations with relationship satisfaction.CrossRef |

[23]  Richters J, Badcock PB, Simpson JM, Shellard D, Rissel C, de Visser RO, et al Design and methods of the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships. Sex Health 2014; 11 383–96.
Design and methods of the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships.CrossRef |

[24]  American Association for Public Opinion Research. Standard definitions: Final dispositions of case codes and outcome rates for surveys. Revised 2011. Available online at: http://www.aapor.org [verified 7 August 2014].

[25]  Department of Health and Aged Care (DoHAC). Measuring remoteness: Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA). Canberra: DoHAC; 2001.

[26]  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Household wealth and wealth distribution, Australia, 2009–2010. Canberra: ABS; 2011.

[27]  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Australian Standard Classification of Occupations, 2nd edn. Catalogue No. 1220.0. Canberra: ABS; 1997.

[28]  Grulich AE, de Visser RO, Badcock PB, Smith AMA, Heywood W, Richters J, et al Homosexual experience and recent homosexual encounters: the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships. Sex Health 2014; 11 439–50.
Homosexual experience and recent homosexual encounters: the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships.CrossRef |

[29]  StataCorp. Stata statistical software: release 11.2. College Station, Texas: StataCorp LP; 2009.

[30]  Leridon H, van Zessen G, Hubert M. The Europeans and their sexual partners. In Hubert M, Bajos N, Sandfort T, editors. Sexual behaviour and HIV/AIDS in Europe. London: UCL Press; 1998. pp. 165–96.

[31]  Mitchell KR, Mercer C, Ploubidis GB, Jones KG, Datta J, Field N, et al Sexual function in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Lancet 2013; 382 1817–29.
Sexual function in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3).CrossRef | 24286787PubMed |



Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (12)

View Altmetrics