Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 33–46 | Cite as

Associations Between Religiosity and Sexuality in a Representative Sample of Australian Adults

  • Richard O. de Visser
  • Anthony M. A. Smith
  • Juliet Richters
  • Chris E. Rissel
Original Paper


Many studies have examined the influence on sexual attitudes and behavior of religious belief (i.e., religious denomination) or religiosity (e.g., attendance at services, subjective importance of religion). However, few studies have examined the combined effects of religion and religiosity on sexual attitudes and behavior. This study examined such effects in a representative sample of 19,307 Australians aged 16–59 years (response rate, 73.1%). The study compared members of four religious groups (Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim) and two levels of frequency of attendance at religious service (less than monthly, at least monthly). Religious participants were compared to their non-religious peers in analyses adjusted for potential confounding by demographic variables. The outcomes were five sexual behaviors and five corresponding measures of sexual attitudes. The study revealed inconsistent patterns of association between religion/religiosity and a range of sexual behaviors and attitudes. In general, greater attendance at religious services was associated with more conservative patterns of behavior and attitudes. However, religious people who attended services infrequently were more similar to their non-religious peers than their more religious peers. The results of this study highlight the importance of considering not only religion or religiosity, but the intersection between these two variables.


Religion Religiosity Sexual behavior Sexual attitudes 



This study was supported by funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, the health departments of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, and the Central Sydney Area Health Service. Thanks to Andrew Grulich for his contribution to the study. We are grateful that participants shared so freely the sometimes intimate aspects of their personal lives.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard O. de Visser
    • 1
  • Anthony M. A. Smith
    • 2
  • Juliet Richters
    • 3
  • Chris E. Rissel
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SussexBrightonEngland
  2. 2.Australian Research Centre in SexHealth & Society, La Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.National Centre in HIV Social ResearchUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.University of Sydney and Sydney South West Area Health ServiceSydneyAustralia

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