Conducted once a decade, The Australian Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR) provides a snapshot of the sexual health and wellbeing of Australians. The survey provides information essential for the delivery of sexual and reproductive health programs across the country. Based on a sample of more than 20,000 people aged 16-69 years, the second study (ASHR2) has provided useful insights into sexual health and behaviour. Some notable findings include:
- Couples are having sex less often than a decade ago – the average frequency of sex in heterosexual relationships fell from 1.8 times a week to 1.4 times a week.
- People appear to be diversifying their sexual practices, with overall increases in people who have ever engaged in oral and anal sex, particularly in those aged 16–19 years.
- There has been no significant decline in the median age of first intercourse, with the age remaining at 17 years. Use of contraception at the time of first sex was high.
- Although most people reported having used a condom at some time in their lives, few people used condoms in their recent sexual encounters. Condom use during most recent sexual encounters was related to younger age, having sex with someone other than a regular partner, and not using other contraception.
- About one in six people reported a lifetime history of a sexually transmissible infection (STI). Approximately one in six women and one in eight men said they had been tested for an STI in the past year, and knowledge of the transmission and health consequences of STIs had improved substantially since the last survey.
- More positive attitudes toward premarital sex, abortion and homosexuality were evident. Over the last decade there appears to have been a shift towards less tolerance of sex outside a committed relationship, but greater acceptance of homosexual behaviour.
- 3.6% of women and 3.2% of men identified as gay or bisexual, however more had reported a same-sex experience than those who identified as gay or bisexual. For women but not men, there was a significant increase in the proportion reporting same-sex experience since the first study.
Research articles have been published in the November issue of the journal Sexual Health available online here (free abstracts; paid access to full-text articles).