The general assumption is that sex and happiness have a direct relationship: having more sex leads to more happiness. Sounds about right, huh? But a new study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization shows that having sex won’t necessarily make you happier. (It will, however, make you more like your parents.)
To figure out if there really is a casual relationship between sex and happiness, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University randomly assigned 64 married heterosexual couples between 35-65 to two different group: one received no instructions on how often to have sex; the other was told to start having sex twice as often as normal.
After observing both groups’ happiness levels over three months (before, during and after the experiment), researchers found that simply having more sex did not make the couples any happier. In fact, in this study, it led to a slight decrease in happiness.
In another interesting turn of events, the couples having more sex reported lower sexual desire and decrease in sexual enjoyment, which the study authors think may be because they were just forcing themselves it to do it for a study — leading it to feel like a chore — rather than initiating it on their own in a spontaneous, more natural way.
“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,” explained George Loewenstein, lead investigator of this study and the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “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 […] rather than directing them to do so,” he added. Good to know: having sex because you’re participating in a sex study is not good for your sex life.
So until a study comes about that can be done without turning sex into a to-do list task, it’s hard to say if a good romp will boost your mood any more than some retail therapy or an ice cream cone. It may even be that happier people just have more sex, not the other way around.
Either way, Loewenstein thinks most couples would do well to have more sex anyway. Sex does have some pretty legit health and beauty benefits, so for now, that’s enough convincing for us!