University of Otago, ChristchurchMonday 26 July 2010, 8:55AM
Media release from the University of Otago,
Homosexuals, bisexuals and those who identify as heterosexual
but who have had same-sex encounters are more likely to have
experienced negative events in childhood, a new University of
Otago, Christchurch, study shows.
Almost 13,000 people aged 16 plus were interviewed face-to-face for
the study, as part of the New Zealand Mental Health Survey.
Researchers asked participants about their sexual identification,
that is whether they thought of themselves as bisexual,
heterosexual or homosexual, but also asked if they had ever had
same-sex sexual experiences or relationships.
This was the first time data on both sexual identity and same-sex
experiences have been collected in New Zealand in a national
Researcher Associate Professor Elisabeth Wells said the more
adverse events experienced in childhood, the more likely someone
was to belong to one of the non-exclusively heterosexual
groups. Associations between adverse events and sexuality
group were found for sexual assault, rape, violence to the child,
and for witnessing violence in the home. Other adverse events, such
as sudden death of a loved one, serious childhood illness, or
accident, were only slightly associated with non-heterosexual
identity or behaviour.
"People who either identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual,
or have had a same-sex encounter or relationship, tend to come from
more disturbed backgrounds. Even so, the majority of people from
disturbed backgrounds are heterosexual in behaviour and
Ninety eight per cent of participants identified themselves as
heterosexual. Of participants, 0.8% identified as homosexual, 0.6%
as bisexual and 0.3% labelled their sexual orientation as
'something else'. More than 80% of those who identified as bisexual
Experiencing a same-sex encounter was more common than identifying
as either homosexual or bisexual. Nearly 2% reported that they had
been in a same-sex relationship while another 3% reported having
experienced a same-sex encounter.
Wells said the study also looked at demographic factors such as a
person's living situation, whether they were married and whether
they had children.
Of the females who identified as homosexual, more than 40% had been
married and had children, she said, whereas this was much less
common for male homosexuals (13%).
Only 10% of exclusively heterosexual people lived alone, compared
to almost 17% of bisexuals and 19% of homosexuals. There were no
clear-cut differences between the groups in education or
Wells said the study provides information for policymakers on the
prevalence of homosexual and bisexual identity. Researchers will in
future use the information to better understand the relative risks
of suicide and mental disorder amongst people from different sexual
The paper was recently published in the international journal,
Archives of Sexual Behaviour.
The New Zealand Mental Health Survey was funded by the Ministry of
Health, the Health Research Council and the Alcohol Advisory
Council. This paper was funded by a grant from Lotteries