How Much Sex Should Couples Have for Marital Bliss?
A lot of research has attempted to answer this question. Here's what they found out.
Most of us would agree a heathy sex life is an important component of any romantic relationship. So it seems perfectly logical to assume there would be a positive correlation between the frequency of dancing between the sheets and one’s level of happiness and satisfaction with said romantic relationship. Logic is one thing, but the real answer to the question, "Does more humping make you happier—or provide any other benefits?" is a resounding "It depends" (and yes, as a creative writing challenge, I’ve decided not to use the word "sex" for the rest of this article).
On the "Yes" side, various studies have found a connection between limb mingling and a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, reduced heart attack risk, improved sleep, lower stress levels, better memory and analytic skills, an increase in brain-cell building, and reduced anxiety and depression.
One study published in The Journal of Urology even found that rolling in the hay could reduce prostate cancer risk. It’s not so much the act of knocking boots, though, but the ejaculations that count—and you can do that all by yourself. Either way, you’ll have to do it a lot. Men who ejaculated 21 times per month had a 20 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those show orgasmed "only" 4-7 times per month, according to the study’s lead author, Harvard epidemiologist, Jennifer Rider.
The circumstances of your coital bliss are also important. For example, people with many partners are less happy than those who have fewer (in fact, several studies have concluded that the number of partners needed to maximize happiness is… wait for it… one). People who cheat on their spouse and men who frequent prostitutes are also less happy than those who are able to keep their pants on when they’re away from their main squeeze.
Doing the Numbers
Okay, if making the beast with two backs is good for you, how much is enough? Tim Wadsworth, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, has a pretty good idea. Compared to those who didn’t have intercourse at all in the previous year, Wadsworth found that people who get busy 2-3 times per month are 33 percent more likely to report high levels of happiness. Those who do the deed once a week are 44 percent more likely to report high levels of happiness, and those who make like bunnies two or three times per week are 55 percent more likely.
But be careful: the nookie-to-happiness ratio isn’t just a numbers game. Perception and competition also play a role. "There’s an overall increase in sense of well-being that comes with engaging in sex more frequently, but there’s also this relative aspect to it," Wadsworth said. "Having more sex* makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier." (* Since that’s a quote, it doesn’t count as my having used the "s" word.) For example, if a couple is thumping thighs two or three times a month but they think that their neighbors are partaking once a week, the first couple’s "probability of reporting a higher level of happiness falls by about 14 percent," Wadsworth found.
Which (not Who) Comes First?
Okay, so there’s a connection between those joint sessions of congress and happiness. But George Leowenstein, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University, wasn’t clear on which one of the two caused the other. Does carnal knowledge make people happier or do happier people have more afternoon (or morning or nighttime) delights? Or is there another variable, such as health or income, that affects both? Leowenstein and his colleagues decided to find out.
They started with 64 volunteer couples (all were legally married, heterosexual, and aged 35–65) and randomly divided them into two groups. One was asked to double their conjugal frequency, the other didn’t get any instructions. The study lasted for three months and both members of the couples got surveys before, during, and after. The questionnaires asked participants about their about happiness levels, how often they shagged, and how much they enjoyed it.
The couples in the increase-it group did, indeed, boost their boffing, but the results weren’t what Leowenstein and his team were expecting. "Contrary to what one would expect if the causal story running from sexual frequency to happiness were true," they wrote in their paper, "we observed a weak negative impact of inducing people to have more sex on mood." In other words, increasing the number of times you release the Kraken may actually decrease your happiness, desire, and enjoyment.
The researchers were quick to point out that the problem wasn’t dipping the chip more often. Instead, it was the fact that the horizontal tango was a homework assignment instead of something the couples jumped into on their own.
So there you go: more makin’ bacon doesn’t necessarily make us happier. So stop worrying about quantity, forget about how much action the guys down the street are getting, and start focusing on quality—and embracing spontaneity.
Armin Brott is passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of men, at any age, and those who care about them. He’s the author of "Blueprint for Men’s Health," "Your Head: An Owner’s Manual," and numerous other books and articles on men’s health. Armin is on the Board of Advisors of Men’s Health Network, a DC-based non-for-profit. Armin is a frequent media expert and speaks around the country on men’s issue and men’s health. For more information visit MrDad.com.