Objective: To describe numbers of opposite-sex partners, experiences of different heterosexual behaviours, and recent heterosexual experiences among a representative sample of Australian adults.
Methods: 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. The response rate was 73.1% (69.4% among men and 77.6% among women).
Results: Men reported more sexual partners than women over their lifetime, in the past five years and in the past year. 15.1% of men and 8.5% of women reported multiple sexual partners in the past year. Reporting multiple opposite-sex partners was significantly associated with being younger, identifying as bisexual, living in major cities, having a lower income, having a blue-collar occupation, and not being married. All but a handful of respondents' most recent heterosexual encounters involved vaginal intercourse and condoms were used in one-fifth of these sexual encounters. Anal intercourse was very uncommon during respondents' most recent heterosexual encounters.
Conclusion: Patterns of heterosexual experience in Australia are similar to those found in studies of representative samples in other countries.
Implications: There may be a need for interventions targeted at people with multiple sexual partners to promote safer sexual behaviour and to reduce the likelihood of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.