Characteristics of heterosexual regular relationships among a representative sample of adults: The Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships

Paul B. Badcock, Anthony M.A. Smith, Juliet Richters, Chris Rissel, Richard O. De Visser, Judy M. Simpson, Andrew E. Grulich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The aim of this study was to describe important characteristics of Australian adults' heterosexual regular sexual relationships and examine how these characteristics have changed since 2002. Methods: Computer-assisted landline and mobile telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 20 094 Australian residents aged 16-69 years. The participation rate among eligible people was 66.2%. Data were collected on respondents' social and demographic characteristics, relationship status and duration, cohabitation status, partner's age, contraception use, expectations about sexual exclusivity, sexual partners in the previous year, actual and ideal frequencies of sex and levels of physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction in their relationships. Results: Most sexually active respondents 89%; 74% of all respondents, were in a heterosexual regular relationship. Most (97%) expected sexual exclusivity in their relationships, with 3% reporting extradyadic sex in the previous year. Respondents reported an average frequency of sex of 1.44 times per week, with most reporting very high levels of physical pleasure (men, 88%; women, 76%) and emotional satisfaction (men, 86%; women, 84%) in their relationships. Comparisons with data from the First Australian Study of Health and Relationships revealed that significantly more sexually active men were in a relationship in the current survey; that respondents' average frequency of sex was significantly lower; and that women's reports of extreme emotional satisfaction had risen. Otherwise, results were consistent with those of the first study. Conclusions: In general, results suggested that the characteristics of Australians' heterosexual relationships changed little between 2002 and 2013. Despite a decline in respondents' average weekly frequency of sex, the majority of respondents reported being in a highly satisfying, sexually exclusive relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-438
Number of pages12
JournalSexual Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Frequency of sex
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Sexual exclusivity
  • Sexual health
  • Sexual infidelity
  • Sexual satisfaction.


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