Meeting sexual partners through internet sites and smartphone apps in Australia: National representative study

Lucy Watchirs Smith, Rebecca Guy, Louisa Degenhardt, Anna Yeung, Chris Rissel, Juliet Richters, Bette Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

6 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Studies have reported on the proportion of the population looking for potential sexual partners using internet sites and smartphone apps , but few have investigated those who have sex with these partners, arguably a more important target group for health promotion. Objective: This study aimed to determine the proportion of people who have had sex with someone they met on an internet site or a smartphone app in the previous year. Methods: We analyzed data from the 2012-2013 Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships, a nationally representative telephone survey of Australian residents aged 16-69 years (N=20,091). The participation rate for the telephone survey was 66.22%. The prevalence of looking for a potential partner, physically meeting, and having sex with someone first met through an internet site or a smartphone app was estimated. Multivariate logistic regression was used for men and women separately to determine demographic and behavioral factors associated with having had sex with someone met on an internet site or a smartphone app in the last year. Results: Overall, 12.09% of respondents had looked for potential partners using these technologies and 5.40% had done so in the last year. In the last year, 2.98% had met someone in person and 1.95% reported having had sex with someone first met on an internet site or a smartphone app. The prevalence of all behaviors was greater in men than in women and in younger respondents than in older respondents. Among sexually active men, factors associated with having had sex with someone met using internet sites or smartphone apps included identifying as gay or bisexual (adjusted odds ratio, AOR: 15.37, 95% CI 8.34-28.35), having either 2-3 or >3 sexual partners in the last year (AOR: 9.20, 95% CI 9.20-34.68 and AOR: 35.77, 95% CI 18.04-70.94, respectively), having had a sexually transmissible infection (STI) test in the past year (AOR: 2.02, 95% CI 1.21-3.38), or an STI in the last year (AOR: 3.15, 95% CI 1.25-7.97). Among sexually active women, factors associated with having had sex with someone met on an internet site or a smartphone app were as follows: having either 2-3 or >3 sexual partners in the last year (AOR: 32.01, 95% CI 13.17-77.78 and AOR: 71:03, 95 % CI 27.48-183.57, respectively), very low and low income (vs very high AOR: 3.40, 95% CI 1.12-10.35), and identifying as lesbian or bisexual (AOR: 2.27, 95% CI 1.04-4.49). Conclusions: More than a third of adults who had looked for potential partners using websites and apps each year had sex with such partners, and those who had done so were more sexually active, suggesting that dating and hookup websites and applications are suitable settings for targeted sexual health interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10683
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume20
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Dating websites
  • Health risk behaviors
  • Internet
  • Mobile phone
  • Sexually transmitted diseases

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