Almost half of Australian high school seniors are sexually active but many who weren’’t said they were waiting to fall in love first. Picture: iStock
Almost half of Australian high school seniors are sexually active but many who weren’’t said they were waiting to fall in love first. Picture: iStock

Disturbing findings in teen sex survey

Almost half of Australia's high school seniors have had sex but more than a quarter who have also admitted they'd experienced an unwanted encounter.

The sixth National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health results released this week saw 6327 year 10, 11 and 12 students from state, private and independent schools open up about their knowledge of STIs, condom use and what guides their decision making.

La Trobe University researcher Dr Christopher Fisher said overall the students were behaving responsibly but he said more work was needed to boost the cohort's understanding of HPV and viral hepatitis, as well as increasing condom use. Only 56.9 per cent of respondents used a condom during their last sexual encounter.

Only 57 per cent of students used a condom during their last sexual encounter but the majority said they were confident about their knowledge of STIs. Picture: iStock
Only 57 per cent of students used a condom during their last sexual encounter but the majority said they were confident about their knowledge of STIs. Picture: iStock


Every five years Australia quizzes students about sex. We are one of few countries who conduct this type of study, making it internationally significant.

The survey found overall 47 per cent of respondents had had intercourse, including 34 per cent of Year 10s, 46 per cent of Year 11s and 56 per cent of Year 12s. The majority of students were aged between 15 and 18.

Of the students who were sexually active, 28 per cent admitted that they had experienced unwanted sex at least once.

ReachOut says any unwanted sexual behaviour is sexual assault. This includes rape, child sexual abuse and indecent assault.

Australian Bureau of Statistics personal safety figures show 1.7 million women (one in five) and 428,000 men (one in twenty) had experienced sexual violence from the age of 15.

STUDENTS WAITING FOR LOVE

The majority of students said they wanted to be ‘in love’ before they had sex. Picture: iStock
The majority of students said they wanted to be ‘in love’ before they had sex. Picture: iStock


Most of the students (87.4 per cent) did not believe they would get an STI while they scored 63 per cent on STI knowledge.

The majority of respondents (75 per cent) said they had sex at home, most of them with a regular partner.

Three per cent of students said they had sex that resulted in pregnancy.

Students who weren't sexually active (53.4 per cent) did not regret they hadn't yet and the majority said they didn't feel pressured to have it.

Seventy-eight per cent wanted to be 'in love' when they had sex for the first time but the majority weren't planning to wait for marriage.

Thirty-five per cent said they were attracted to the same gender or multiple genders.

"There are many positive findings, including that those young people who are not yet sexually active don't feel pressured to start having sex until they're ready," Dr Fisher said.

SEXTING, DATING AND TALKING ABOUT IT

Thirty-three per cent of survey respondents said they had sent a sext in the past two months and 8 per cent said they were on Tinder.

The majority of respondents said they got their sexual health advice online, but were wary of trusting internet sources.

Seventy-seven per cent said they discussed sexual health before having sex

Students spoke to their GPs (88.6 per cent) way more than their parents (60 per cent) about sexual health as they trusted them more.

Seventy-one per cent said their girl friends were the most reliable person to confide in about sex, more-so than their mothers or boys.

"Young people turn to a wide variety of sources of information to educate themselves about sexual health in addition to getting sexual health information in the school system. GPs are the most trusted source of information by far followed by female friends and mothers," Dr Fisher said.

Despite students receiving sex education at school, majority did not have confidence in talking to teachers or school counsellors about it.

Some students complained they wanted more engaging sex education at their school that was delivered more often and covered issues that were age-relevant. Some also complained they wanted teachers who were comfortable with the topic teaching it.

La Trobe has been contacted for further comment on the results.

Kids Helpline, a free phone and online counciling service is available to young people (5-25) 27/7. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat.


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