Youth survey challenges expectations

Angus Morgan

10 June, 2015

Image: Shutterstock

A high proportion of young people who don’t identify as heterosexual is one of the features of Burnet’s Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll survey, the 2015 successor to the longstanding Big Day Out survey.

A total of 23 percent of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll participants identified as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning or other, compared to 14 percent who contributed to last year’s Big Day Out survey.

Head of Sexual Health Research at Burnet’s Centre for Population Health, Dr Megan Lim said a change in methodology this year to online recruitment might be a factor in the increase in non-heterosexual representation.

She said participants may be more open and honest online than when filling out survey forms in front of friends or a researcher.

“The percentage of people who reported not being heterosexual is definitely a lot higher than is reported in general population surveys,” Dr Lim said.

“I think it means that we’re attracting a lot of people who don’t fit neatly into the heterosexual category.

“Also the participants are a little bit older this year, so it’s likely that people may change their sexual identity as they get older, or have a better understanding of it, or feel more confident about expressing it.”

Dr Lim said she regards the online Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll survey as a complementary new start rather than a continuation of the Big Day Out survey which canvassed the views on sexual health and drug and alcohol use of more than 12,000 young people attending Melbourne’s Big Day Out music festival from 2005 to 2014.

“We would like to establish an ongoing cohort to get a more in-depth understanding of how these behaviours change over time in people, particularly areas such as pornography and social media use,” Dr Lim said.

“This would be the first online established cohort that was looking at those things over time.”

Dr Lim said the Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll survey demonstrated the popularity of sexting among young people, but indicated also that the practice is open to abuse.

“We have found that most people are sexting – either sending a sext of themselves or (receiving one) from their partner – to flirt and for intimacy within their relationships,” Dr Lim said.

“But 17 percent said they’d received a sext from a third party and seven percent had forwarded a sext to a third party, and that’s concerning because it has the potential to upset the person involved and it also can be illegal.”

According to the Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll survey three percent of participants had used ‘ice’ in the past month compared to 12 percent cocaine and 35 percent ecstasy.

Twelve percent of participants rated their mental health as poor, a figure which Dr Lim described as ‘quite high’.

“Generally people are reporting poorer mental health here than other general population surveys I’ve seen,” she said.

“That’s interesting because online might be a really good way to reach people with mental health problems, which is something that other researchers are doing at the moment.”

Find out more about Burnet’s research into young people’s health or download the 2015 Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll survey.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Associate Professor Megan SC Lim

Deputy Program Director, Disease Elimination; Head, Young People’s Health




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