Does More Sex Make You Happier?

Does more sex make you happier?  Ask anyone from a teenage boy to a beer commercial and you’d assume the answer to be a resounding “yes!”  But let’s look at the science. A few days ago, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University released a new study that found exactly the opposite. Read on for why.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
2-minute read

Does More Sex Make You Happier?There’s no question that sex and happiness go together. A 2004 survey of around 16,000 American adults found that sexual frequency and happiness were strongly linked. It’s just a matter of whether more sex leads to more happiness, whether happy people tend to have more sex, or whether some X factor, like better health, affects both.

So what gives? The new study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University sheds some lightof the flattering bedroom variety, of course—on the chicken-and-egg question of sex and happiness.

In the study, straight married couples were randomly assigned either to keep their sex life exactly the same or to double their sexual frequency.

Surprisingly, those who were instructed to have more sex reported decreased happiness. Maybe getting lucky wasn’t so lucky.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, those assigned to have more sex reported less sexual enjoyment; indeed, anyone who has ever struggled to start a family can tell you that having sex on a schedule reduces it to a chore. Perhaps the very instruction to have more sex changed it from a “want to” to a “have to.”

The bottom line? If the goal is really increased happiness, it’s important to keep sex as a “want,” not another item on the to-do list. Creating amorous opportunities, like date night or having the grandparents take the kids for the afternoon, likely creates more of a “want to” than a researcher telling you to.

Savvy PsychologistREFERENCES:

Loewenstein, G., Krishnamurti, T., Kopsic, J. & McDonald, D. (2015).  Does increased sexual frequency enhance happiness? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2015.04.021

Blanchflower, D. & Oswald, A. (2004).  Money, sex, and happiness: An empirical study.  Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 106, 393-415.

Young happy couple in bed image courtesy of Shutterstock

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About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.