Having a Lot of Sex: Does It Make You Happy (or Unhappy)?

couple, cuddling, bed

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What could be a better mood-elevator than a healthy dose of post-sex endorphins, right? As many studies and psychologists have advised over the years, having more sex is the secret to a happy life. In fact, one paper titled Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study, published in National Bureau of Economic Research in 2004, claimed that sex “enters so strongly and positively in happiness equations” that getting lucky once a month or more is equivalent to the amount of joy generated by receiving an additional $50,000 in income. This and similar studies have reached conclusions on the power of intercourse based on the simple finding that people who are having greater amounts of sex are also happier. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization contradicts every paper come before it, claiming more sex may not lead to increased happiness after all.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a unique study, looking at the connection between sexual frequency and happiness. In the study, 28 married individuals between the ages of 35 and 65 were observed over three months. The couples were randomly assigned to one of two groups: The first group was told to carry on with their usual sex life, while the second group was instructed to double their weekly sexual frequency.

Throughout the study, participants were asked to complete three different surveys. One was given at the beginning of the study to establish a baseline, the second one midway through the study, and the last was completed at the conclusion of three months to assess how the individual’s level of happiness changed over time.

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The results of the study were not what you’d expect. The researchers found that couples who were instructed to increase their amount of sex actually reported to be less happy than when the experiment started. Although the decrease was only minor, this still contradicted the common belief that increased sex always leads to an increased disposition. When the researchers dug deeper, they discovered the couples that were instructed to have more sex also had a decrease in sexual desire and decreased sexual enjoyment.

But how are these results so different than studies in the past? It’s possible that in past research, subjects who were already happy were more likely to have more sex, or being healthy might cause individuals to both have more sex and be happier. George Loewenstein, the study’s lead investigator, speculated that the surprising results of his study might have to do with the fact that these couples had been told to have sex, rather than decide to do so on their own accord. Since the act felt like a chore rather than a desire-induced act, it could explain why the levels of happiness were lower.

While the results of this study might seem like a serious buzz-kill, don’t lose all hope in the power of a great sex life just yet! One of the study’s designer’s, Tamar Krishnamurti, actually believes the study’s findings can help couples improve their sex lives and, consequently, their levels of happiness. So if you and your significant other aren’t having quite as much sex as you did when you first got together, don’t worry! Krishnamurti believes this study has proven that instead of focusing on the frequency of sex, couples should instead work toward creating an environment that increases sexual desire and makes sex more fun and exciting.

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