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Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003;27(2):164-70.

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

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National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney.



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


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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