Sex in Australia: sexual difficulties in a representative sample of adults

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003;27(2):164-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2003.tb00804.x.


Objectives: The Australian Study of Health and Relationships reports on sexual behaviours in a representative sample of Australian adults.

Method: Between May 2000 and June 2001, computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16 to 59 years (response rate 73.1%). Respondents were asked whether in the past year they had for a period of at least one month experienced a range of sexual difficulties.

Results: The most common sexual difficulty was lack of interest in having sex (24.9% men, 54.8% women). Women were more likely than men to report being unable to come to orgasm (28.6% vs. 6.3%), not finding sex pleasurable (27.3% vs. 5.6%), physical pain during intercourse (20.3% vs. 2.4%) or worrying during sex about their body looking unattractive (35.9% vs. 14.2%). Men were more likely to report coming to orgasm too quickly (23.8% vs. 11.7%). Men (16.0%) and women (17.0%) were equally likely to have felt anxious about their ability to perform sexually. Erectile difficulties and lack of interest in sex were higher among the over-40s. Anxiety about performance was highest among men under 20. Experience of sexual difficulties correlated with self-reported ill health.

Conclusion: The assumption that everyone should be interested in sex, should want to have it and should enjoy having it is a socially normative prescription and not a description of the actual state of affairs. Women reported less interest in sex, less pleasure and more pain than men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology