Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 155–168 | Cite as

Multiple Aspects of Sexual Orientation: Prevalence and Sociodemographic Correlates in a New Zealand National Survey

  • J. Elisabeth WellsEmail author
  • Magnus A. McGee
  • Annette L. Beautrais


Sexual orientation consists of multiple components. This study investigated both sexual identity and same-sex sexual behavior. Data came from the New Zealand Mental Health Survey, a nationally representative community sample of New Zealanders aged 16 years or older, interviewed face-to-face (N = 12,992, 48% male). The response rate was 73.3%. Self-reported sexual identity was 98.0% heterosexual, 0.6% bisexual, 0.8% homosexual, 0.3% “Something else,” and 0.1% “Not sure.” Same-sex sexual behavior with a partner was more common: 3.2% reported same-sex sexual experience only and 1.9% reported both experience and a relationship. For analysis of childhood and lifecourse, five sexuality groups were investigated: homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual divided into those with no same-sex sexual experience, experience only, and experience and relationship. The non-exclusively heterosexual groups were more likely to have experienced adverse events in childhood. Educational achievement and current equivalized household income did not differ systematically across the sexuality groups. Only 9.4% of the exclusively heterosexual lived alone, compared with 16.7% of bisexuals and 19.0% of homosexuals. Heterosexuals were more likely than bisexuals or homosexuals to have ever married or had biological children, with differences more marked for males than for females. Heterosexuals with no same-sex sexual experience were more likely to be currently married than the other two heterosexual groups. Restricting comparisons to heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual identification ignores the diversity within heterosexuals. Differences between the bisexual and homosexual groups were small compared with the differences between these groups and the exclusively heterosexual group, except for sex (80.8% of bisexuals were female).


Sexual orientation Same-sex sexual behavior Epidemiology 



Te Rau Hinengaro, the New Zealand Mental Health Survey (NZMHS), was funded by the Ministry of Health, the Alcohol Advisory Council, and the Health Research Council. Funding for this article came from the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board. The NZMHS was carried out in conjunction with the World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative. We thank the WMH staff for assistance with instrumentation, fieldwork, and data analysis. These activities were supported by the United States National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH070884), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation, the U.S. Public Health Service (R13-MH066849, R01-MH069864, and R01 DA016558), the Fogarty International Center (FIRCA R03-TW006481), the Pan American Health Organization, the Eli Lilly & Company Foundation, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Shire. A complete list of WMH publications can be found at


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Elisabeth Wells
    • 4
    Email author
  • Magnus A. McGee
    • 1
  • Annette L. Beautrais
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and General PracticeUniversity of Otago, ChristchurchChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Emergency MedicineYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychological MedicineUniversity of Otago, ChristchurchChristchurchNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of Public Health and General PracticeUniversity of Otago, ChristchurchChristchurchNew Zealand

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