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Frequent Sex Not Always Linked to Happiness

Our culture holds the general belief, backed up by self-help books, that sex within a committed relationship will make you happy and healthy—and the more the better.

Academic study

In the first study to ask whether having more frequent sex actually makes people happier, Carnegie Mellon University researchers assigned some couples to have more sex than others and observed both groups' happiness over three months.

The results, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, show that simply having more sex did not make couples happier, in part because the increased frequency led to a decline in wanting more sex and enjoying the sex they had.

The study involved 128 healthy people, ages 35-65, in married male-female couples. The researchers randomly assigned the couples to one of two groups: The first received no instructions on sexual frequency. The second group was asked to double their weekly sexual intercourse frequency.

Enforced date night

At the end of the study, surveys showed that the couples who were asked to did have more sex, but that it led, surprisingly, to a small decrease in happiness. These same couples reported lower sexual desire and a decrease in sexual enjoyment. This may have had something to do with the fact that their turbo sex lives were initiated at the behest of a university study—not the most sexy of circumstances.

"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, perhaps with baby-sitting, hotel rooms or Egyptian sheets, rather than directing them to do so," George Loewenstein, Ph.D., the study's lead investigator, told the Carnegie Mellon news center.

Basically, ignore this study, lead investigator says

Despite the study's results, George says he continues to believe that most couples have too little sex for their own good, and thinks that increasing sexual frequency in the right ways can be beneficial.

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