Inspired living

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