Sex in Australia: sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience among a representative sample of adults

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003;27(2):138-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2003.tb00801.x.


Objective: To describe the prevalence of same-sex and opposite-sex attraction and experience in Australia and the prevalence of different sexual identities.

Method: Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16-59 years from all States and Territories of Australia. The overall response rate was 73.1% (men, 69.4%; women, 77.6%). Men and women were asked about their experience of same-sex and opposite-sex attraction and experience along with their sexual identity. The agreement and disagreement between sexual attraction and sexual experience were explored.

Results: Among men, 97.4% identified as heterosexual, 1.6% as gay or homosexual and 0.9% as bisexual. Among women, 97.7% identified as heterosexual, 0.8% as lesbian or homosexual and 1.4% as bisexual. Among men, 91.4% reported only opposite-sex attraction and experience, as did 84.9% of women. Thus, some same-sex attraction or experience was reported by 8.60% of men and 15.1% of women. Of men, 4.2% reported sexual attraction and sexual experience that was inconsistent, as did 8.2% of women. Factors associated with this agreement or disagreement included age group, non-English-speaking background, education and socio-economic status.

Conclusion: Relatively few Australians reported a sexual identity other than heterosexual. However, both same-sex attraction and homosexual experience are more common than homosexual or bisexual identity would suggest. Reporting same-sex attraction or experience was associated with poorer mental health and is likely to reflect responses to homophobia in Australian society.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychosexual Development
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*