Sex_more_happiness_M_web

Sex and happiness

“Less is more” is a phrase that originated in the Robert Browning poem “Andrea del Sarto” of the mid 19th century, it was adopted by the minimalist architectural movement of the 1960s, and these days is avidly adhered to by confectionary manufacturers who seem to think that reducing a product’s size by 20 per cent while maintaining the price is a fair thing. In a commodity driven, growth obsessed society however, the general push is for more, more, more. As Browning warned us though, more is not always a good thing and, it may surprise you to learn, that even applies to sex according to a new study.

Previous research has established that people who have more sex tend to be happier. It might be though that happier people want more sex or perhaps being healthy leads to both happiness and heightened sexuality. So the previous research has not established that more sex causes happiness which is what was investigated in the new study.

In the study married male-female couples within the age range of 35 to 65 were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group just continued on with no instructions on sexual frequency. The other group was asked to double their weekly sexual intercourse frequency. Every person involved completed three different surveys. At the beginning of the study they answered surveys to measure health behaviours, happiness levels, and the frequency, type, and enjoyableness of sex. Then every day for three months the subjects answered questions online to establish where they were on these same measures and finally they completed an “exit questionnaire” to see how their final answers related to the baseline answers three months earlier.

The results showed that couples instructed to increase their sexual frequency did have more sex but that did not result in increased happiness, in fact it lead to a small decrease in happiness. The surveys revealed that being asked to have more sex, rather than deciding to do it of their own volition, was behind the reduced happiness and decline in anticipation of sex.

The study would perhaps have been better designed if another had also been told to decrease their amount of sex. The results of that group, who would also have been having their sexual frequency dictated to them but in a different direction, would have been revealing. Still, there is valuable information here. We now know that increasing your sexual frequency at any price is not necessarily a good thing. The researchers say that this tells you not to focus on just increasing the amount of sex you have, but to work on creating an environment that stimulates desire and makes sex fun.

Browning was right; more is not always more.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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Sex_happy_compare_web

Sex and happiness

There are some things of which even a little is too much; deep-fried cheese, 80s British electronica bands and Adam Sandler movies spring to mind as prime examples. On the other hand, there are some things of which you just can’t get enough; like breezy autumnal mornings by the sea, shared laughter with friends and work that inspires you. Many would add sex to the “can’t get enough” category and a new study suggests this is accurate — but there is a peculiar and interesting twist to the tale.

This new research was conducted by an associate professor of sociology who analysed data on more than 15,000 people collected between 1993 and 2006. The data came from the General Social Survey, which asked people to rate themselves as “very happy”, “pretty happy” or “not too happy”. The survey also asked people about the amount of sex they were having (amongst other things). This analysis aimed to find whether there is a correlation between happiness and sexual frequency.

The results showed that even after allowing for many other factors like income, education, marital status, health, age and race there is a relationship between sex and happiness. It emerged that people who reported having sex at least two to three times a month were 33 per cent more likely to report a higher level of happiness than those who reported having no sex during the previous 12 months. It also seems that the more sex you have the happier you are. Compared to those who had no sex in the previous year, those having sex once a week were 44 per cent more likely to report a higher level of happiness. Those having sex two to three times a week were 55 per cent more likely to report a higher level of happiness. So more sex equals more happiness; that seems straight forward enough but the twist is yet to come.

It also emerged that no matter how much sex you are having, if you believe your neighbours are having more sex than you then your chances of reporting a high level of happiness drop by around 14 per cent. It is difficult of course to know exactly how much sex your neighbours are having, since it is not the kind of thing you tend to chat about over the back fence. “So Cassie, how often do you and Mitch do it?” is not really a socially acceptable conversation starter. Still, people form perceptions of how much sex they think their neighbours and peers are having via the mainstream media, social media and so forth. In the end then, it seems that sex is a lot like income: it doesn’t really matter how much you have, people tend not to be happy if they think others are getting more than they do.

It is all part of human nature in that we tend not to think about how blessed we are but instead look to people we feel are “better off” than we are and to feel resentment in response. This is not new — we already know that comparison is odious and a recipe for malaise — but these findings do add a new depth of meaning to “keeping up with the Joneses”.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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