When It Comes to Sex, Quality Trumps Quantity

by Emma Waverman
Originally Published: 

You’ve read the articles in magazines, maybe even the books. Perhaps your partner has even whispered it into your ear late one night: The more sex you have, the happier you are.

But wait. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have found that the “sex equals happiness” equation may not be so simple.

Surprisingly, this is the first study that looked at sexual frequency and happiness. Researchers divided 128 married, heterosexual couples aged 35 to 65 into two groups. They didn’t give any instructions to the first group other than to record their thoughts on different variables such as their sex frequency, positions and their happiness daily. The second group they directed to double the amount of sex they had and then record their thoughts.

What they found is that the group who was asked to have sex more often actually had a small but noticeable dip in their happiness level.

Professor George Loewenstein, the lead researcher on the project, says that he still believes that lots of sex is good for you, and for your relationship. But he thinks that telling people to have sex may lower their sex drive and decreases their feeling of happiness.

Anyone who has had to try hard to get pregnant would probably agree with his assessment of appointment sex. It is definitely hard to feel into it if you have been told by a doctor (or Dr. Google) when, how much, and how to do the deed.

Lowenstein would like to redesign the study to encourage people to want to initiate sex more often. “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,” he says.

The take-home, or take-to-bed, from the study is that having sex just because you feel like you should may not make you happier. As with most things, quality trumps quantity when it comes to sex. But if you can combine the two—all the better. We look forward to more studies on this subject.

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