Given how much everyone talks about it, thinks about it and worries about it, sex must be pretty important. And having a lot more sex must be a lot better than not having so much. Right?
Not necessarily, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. They assigned some couples to have more sex than others, then observed them and a control group over three months.,
In a paper published in the,Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, they report that simply having more sex did not make couples happier, in part because the increased frequency led to a decline in desire and in the enjoyment of the act itself.
The couples instructed to increase sexual frequency did have more sex but instead of being happier, they were actually a little less happy than the control group. It's not that the increased sex wasn't enjoyable but perhaps it was,just the fact that they were asked to do it, rather than initiating on their own.
The story changed?
"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. 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," said George Loewenstein, the study's lead investigator.
So, maybe having more sex would make us happier as long as we weren't doing it because someone told us to?
Yes, maybe. In fact, despite the study's results, Loewenstein said 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.
Another of the researchers,,Tamar Krishnamurti, suggested that the study's findings may actually help couples to improve their sex lives and their happiness.
"The desire to have sex decreases much more quickly than the enjoyment of sex once it's been initiated. Instead of focusing on increasing sexual frequency to the levels they experienced at the beginning of a relationship, couples may want to work on creating an environment that sparks their desire and makes the sex that they do have even more fun," said Krishnamurti, a research scientist in CMU's Department of Engineering and Public Policy.
The study included 128,healthy individuals between the ages of 35-65 who were in married male-female couples participated in the research. The researchers randomly assigned the couples to one of two groups. The first group received no instructions on sexual frequency. The second group was asked to double their weekly sexual intercourse frequency.
Each member of the participating couples completed three different types of surveys. At the beginning of the study, they answered questions to establish baselines. Daily during the experimental period, the participants answered questions online to measure health behaviors, happiness levels and the occurrence, type and enjoyableness of sex. The exit survey analyzed whether baseline levels changed over the three-month period.