Love during lockdown: Findings from an online survey examining the impact of COVID-19 on the sexual health of people living in Australia

Jacqueline Coombe, Fabian Yuh Shiong Kong, Helen Bittleston, Henrietta Williams, Jane Tomnay, Alaina Vaisey, Sue Malta, Jane L. Goller, Meredith Temple-Smith, Louise Bourchier, Andrew Lau, Eric P.F. Chow, Jane S. Hocking

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Australia recorded its first case of COVID-19 in late January 2020. On 22P March 2020, amid increasing daily case numbers, the Australian Government implemented lockdown restrictions to help 'flatten the curve'. Our study aimed to understand the impact of lockdown restrictions on sexual and reproductive health. Here we focus on sexual practices. Methods: An online survey was open from the 23PP April 2020 to 11P May 2020. Participants were recruited online via social media and other networks and were asked to report on their sexual practices in 2019 and during lockdown. Logistic regression was used to calculate the difference (diff) (including 95% CIs) in the proportion of sex practices between time periods. Results: Of the 1187 who commenced the survey, 965 (81.3%) completed it. Overall, 70% were female and 66.3% were aged 18-29 years. Most (53.5%) reported less sex during lockdown than in 2019. Compared with 2019, participants were more likely to report sex with a spouse (35.3% vs 41.7%; diff=6.4%; 95% CI 3.6 to 9.2) and less likely to report sex with a girl/boyfriend (45.1% vs 41.8%; diff=-3.3%; 95% CI -7.0 to -0.4) or with casual hook-up (31.4% vs 7.8%; 95% CI -26.9 to -19.8). Solo sex activities increased; 14.6% (123/840) reported using sex toys more often and 26.0% (218/838) reported masturbating more often. Dating app use decreased during lockdown compared with 2019 (42.1% vs 27.3%; diff= -14.8%; 95% CI -17.6 to -11.9). Using dating apps for chatting/texting (89.8% vs 94.5%; diff=4.7%; 95% CI 1.0 to 8.5) and for setting up virtual dates (2.6% vs 17.2%; diff=14.6%; 95% CI 10.1 to 19.2) increased during lockdown. Conclusion: Although significant declines in sexual activity during lockdown were reported, people did not completely stop engaging in sexual activities, highlighting the importance of ensuring availability of normal sexual and reproductive health services during global emergencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-362
Number of pages6
JournalSexually Transmitted Infections
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • infectious diseases
  • sexual behaviour
  • sexual health

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