To investigate claims that more sex leads to increased happiness, scientists experimentally assigned some couples to have more sex than others, and observed both group’s happiness over a three month period.
The study included 128 healthy individuals between the ages of 35 to 65 who were in married male-female couples. The researchers randomly assigned the couples to one of two groups. The first group received no instructions on sexual frequency. The second group was asked to double their weekly sexual intercourse frequency.
Each member of the participating couples completed three different types of surveys. At the beginning of the study, they answered questions to establish baselines. Daily during the experimental period, the participants answered questions online to measure health behaviors, happiness levels and the occurrence, type, and enjoyableness of sex.
The exit survey analyzed whether baseline levels changed over the three-month period.
Were they happier?
The couples instructed to increase sexual frequency did have more sex. However, it did not lead to increased, but instead to a small decrease, in happiness.
Looking further, the researchers found that couples instructed to have more sex reported lower sexual desire and a decrease in sexual enjoyment. It wasn’t that actually having more sex led to decreased wanting and liking for sex. Instead, it seemed to be just the fact that they were asked to do it, rather than initiating on their own.
“Perhaps couples changed the story they told themselves about why they were having sex, from an activity voluntarily engaged in to one that was part of a research study. If we ran the study again, and could afford to do it, we would try to encourage subjects into initiating more sex in ways that put them in a sexy frame of mind, perhaps with babysitting, hotel rooms, or Egyptian sheets, rather than directing them to do so,” says George Loewenstein, the study’s lead investigator and a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
Despite the study’s results, Loewenstein continues to believe that most couples have too little sex for their own good, and thinks that increasing sexual frequency in the right ways can be beneficial.
One of the study’s designers, Tamar Krishnamurti, suggests that the study’s findings may actually help couples to improve their sex lives and their happiness.
“The desire to have sex decreases much more quickly than the enjoyment of sex once it’s been initiated. Instead of focusing on increasing sexual frequency to the levels they experienced at the beginning of a relationship, couples may want to work on creating an environment that sparks their desire and makes the sex that they do have even more fun,” says Krishnamurti, a research scientist in the engineering and public policy department.
The findings appear in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University