Research, self-help books and the media have always taught how a very active sex life will make us happy. However, a new study at Carnegie Mellon University in the US suggests upping your sexual activity could in some cases lead to frustration.
According to the research, sex and happiness share a positive relationship. It says being happy could inspire more sex, or being healthy could make you happier and lead to more sex. Yet simply increasing the frequency of sex with your partner is not the recipe for eternal afterglow.
Working with 128 participants between the ages of 35 to 65, all of whom were heterosexual and married, the researchers interviewed them to establish baseline statistics on each couple's weekly sexual frequency. At random, they assigned some couples to have double the amount of sex they normally would in a week. The experiment continued for three months as the researchers surveyed all couples —including the remaining couples that were not asked to change their sex lives in any way. Participants responded to questions online about their health behavior, happiness and how much they were enjoying sex.
Researchers asked them to describe their sex lives in full, revealing everything down to the positions they chose. Those who had been assigned to have more sex had done their due diligence and completed the experiment as asked, say the researchers, yet they experienced a small decrease in happiness.
Further probing pointed to lower sexual desire and a decrease in enjoyment for these couples that had been asked to have more sex, which could be at the root of the problem, according to the researchers. "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," says lead investigator George Loewenstein of Carnegie Melon.
The study has important implications that individuals need genuine inspiration on their own accord to initiate more sex and reap the benefits. "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," says Loewenstein.
The study was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organisation.