Less is more, if the findings of a new study are to be believed. The research, published Nov. 18 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, discovered that the happiest couples have sex once a week instead of more frequently.
The study from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, based on surveys covering over 30,000 Americans over a span of four decades, claimed to be the first to go against the prevailing belief that more sex equals more happiness.
Lead researcher Amy Muise said that the link between greater happiness and more frequent sex was “no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week.”
“[I]t'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,” added Muise, a University of Toronto-Mississauga social psychologist and postdoctoral fellow.
The findings centered on romantically involved individuals – particularly married heterosexual couples and those in established relationships.
The team also found no link between sexual frequency and well-being for single people. Muise explained that for single individuals, the sex-happiness connection may be dependent on factors including the level of comfort with sex outside of relationship.
Following the results that established couples tend to make love once a week on average, there was no difference in gender, age, or maturity of relationship. This is despite stereotypes of men wanting more and the elderly having less sex.
Sex, in fact, may have a greater link with happiness than money does.
In the researchers’ online survey of 335 participants, researchers found a more massive gap in happiness between people who had sex less than once monthly versus those who had sex once weekly (the former being less happy than the latter), than between people who earned $15,000-25,000 versus those with an income of $50,000 to $75,000 annually.
What does this show? "People often think that more money and more sex equal more happiness, but this is only true up to a point," explained Muise, who also stressed the need to continue being intimately connected but without exerting excess pressure on lovemaking as frequently as possible.
Carnegie Mellon University professor George Loewenstein raised concerns over the research being correlational rather than causal. “They didn’t control the independent variable, which is frequency of sex,” he argued.
Loewenstein’s team earlier this year led a study where 32 out of 64 married couples were told to double their rate of sexual intercourse and answer short daily surveys delving on happiness.
The team discovered that with 40 percent more sex, the respondents emerged as not happier, less energetic, and having worse sex.
The takeaway: quality over frequency. “Sex can mean so many different things: there’s good sex, bad sex and we found that the quality of the sex affected happiness more than frequency,” he said, citing the recent research didn’t account for quality.
Photo: Sascha Kohlmann | Flickr