Couples who have sex weekly are happiest

Credit: Lynn Greyling/Public Domain

More sex may not always make you happier, according to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

"Although more frequent sex is associated with greater happiness, this link was no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week," lead researcher Amy Muise said. "Our findings suggest that it's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don't need to have sex everyday as long as you're maintaining that connection."

Some previous studies, and a plethora of articles and self-help books, have claimed that more sex equals more happiness. But this study, based on surveys of more than 30,000 Americans collected over four decades, is the first to find that association is not there after couples report having sex more than once a week on average. The study was not designed to identify the causal process, so does not tell us whether having sex up to once a week makes couples happier, or being in a happy relationship causes to have more frequent sex (up to once a week).

In addition, these findings were specific to people in romantic relationships and in fact, there was no association between sexual frequency and wellbeing for single people, said Muise, a social psychologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto-Mississauga. It's possible that for single people, the link between sex and happiness is dependent on a number of factors such as the relationship context in which the sex occurs and how comfortable people are with sex outside of relationship. The findings, which were published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, are most representative of married heterosexual couples or those in established relationships.

In one study, researchers analyzed survey responses about sexual frequency and general happiness from more than 25,000 Americans (11,285 men, 14,225 women) who took the General Social Survey from 1989 to 2012. The biennial survey, conducted by the University of Chicago, has a nationally representative sample and covers a wide range of sociological issues, including opinions about race relations, religion and sex. For couples, happiness tended to increase with more frequent sex, but this is no longer true after couples report engaging in sex more than once a week. This study and other previous studies report that established couples tend to have sex about once a week on average.

Despite common stereotypes that men want more sex and have less sex, there was no difference in the findings based on gender, age or length of relationship. "Our findings were consistent for men and women, younger and older people, and couples who had been married for a few years or decades," Muise said.

Sex may be more strongly associated with happiness than is money. The researchers also conducted an online survey with 335 people (138 men, 197 women) who were in long-term relationships and found similar results as the first study. These participants were also asked about their annual income, and there was a larger difference in happiness between people who had sex less than once a month compared to people who had sex once a week than between people who had an income of $15,000-$25,000 compared to people who had an income of $50,000-$75,000 per year.

"People often think that more money and more sex equal more , but this is only true up to a point," Muise said.

A third study analyzed survey results collected at three time points over 14 years from more than 2,400 married couples in the United States. There wasn't a strong link between sexual frequency and overall life satisfaction, but couples reported more satisfaction with their relationships as sexual frequency increased up to once per week, with no noticeable benefits of engaging in sex more often.

The study findings don't necessarily mean that should engage in more or less sex to reach the weekly average, but partners should discuss whether their sexual needs are being met, Muise said.

"It's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner without putting too much pressure on engaging in as frequently as possible," she said.

Explore further

Post-sex affectionate behaviour correlates strongly with sexual and relationship satisfaction in study

More information: Muise, A., Schimmack, U., and Impett, E. (2015) Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Wellbeing, But More Is Not Always Better, Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Citation: Couples who have sex weekly are happiest (2015, November 18) retrieved 21 October 2019 from
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Nov 18, 2015
Does the sex make them happy, or are they happy and thus have sex?

Does money make you happy? Or does being happy bring in more money?

These are correlation/causation arguments that any high school kid could make. Anyone married for more than a few years would know that the latter tends to be the case. So what was the point of the study?

Nov 18, 2015
Showing that happy people engage in more sex OR that people who are sexual are more happy is equally interesting to science. Anyone married for more than a few years is anecdotal. The point is to look at how often people have sex in relationships. The finding is that the sexual/happy level overlaps at about once a week. I'm sorry that's not interesting to you since you already have all of sociology figured out. Do write a book or something.

Sex is only 1/2 of a whole thing. Sex is only successful when conception is achieved. It is not meant to be an end in itself.

I suggest that contemporary marriages are harder to maintain because couples are not producing babies. Both male and female bodies change after successful conception, and either partner expects to see these changes in themselves and their mate.

If people are having sex to no effect, then their bodies will tell them they are wasting their time and resources, and both parties will begin to seek out new partners whether subconsciously or not.

I am reminded of a scene from the movie apocalypto. The couple who werent conceiving were chastized by the whole tribe, the worst being from the womans mother.

This cultural insistence has largely disappeared from western culture, and I suggest that the decline of marriage is the result.

Nov 19, 2015
I'm pretty sure that couples which go to the restaurant weekly are happier than the ones who do not.
I'm pretty sure that couples who engage in bungee jumping once a week are happier than the rest.
I'm pretty sure that couples who share a film or go to the cinema weekly are happier than the rest.

Do we see a trend there ? And what about happy sexless couples ? Definitely a study topic chosen by a horny scientist.

Nov 21, 2015
Skyly, you are absolutely correct. It also means you shouldn't bungee jump more than once a week or less than once a week. :)

I don't know what to make of this survey. I believe sexual happiness is correlated with happiness in general whether in a relationship or not. However, some people need sex 3 times a day and some 3 times a year or less. When you have a couple where one wants it 1 time a day and the other 1 time a week I expect there to be serious issues. The biggest issue for me is if this article justifies some people to say "Normal = 1 time a week" which means any people who want it more or less are made to feel or to be accused of being abnormal.

I also wonder if someone is having sex only once a week are they really into sex? It would seem that if they have it that infrequently they only think about it rarely and therefore might go without it for even longer without problems or it might not matter to marital happiness to them at all

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