Keeping up with the Joneses

Sex, apparently, is a lot like money: you’re happiest when you get more of it than your friends do.

Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, analyzed national survey data to explore how happy Americans are with their sex lives.

The findings read like the basis for an episode of Sex & the City or Californication: people who have sex more often are happier, but that happiness is contingent upon what the neighbors are up to as well. 

People just aren't as excited about their sex lives if they believe their peers are having as much or more sex than they are.

“There’s an overall increase in sense of well-being that comes with engaging in sex more frequently, but there’s also this relative aspect to it,” Wadsworth said in a press release. “Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier.”

His article, “Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness: How Other People’s Sex Lives are Related to our Sense of Well-Being,” was published this week in the journal Social Indicators Research.

How Happy Are We With Our Sex Lives?

Since 1972, the General Social Survey has been called “the pulse of America” because it’s an ongoing survey of demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal factors that measures a staggering 5,545 variables.

Wadsworth took a sample of 15,386 individuals from this data set and excluded factors such as income, health, age, and marital status. 

It turns out that the more frequently we have sex, the more likely we are to be happy. 

He found that people who'd had sex two to three times a month were 33 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness than those who'd had no such good lovin’ in the past year. Also, people who reported having sex once a week were 44 percent more likely to be happy, while lucky people having sex two or three times a week were 55 percent more likely to be happy.

What’s the easiest way for that happiness to drop by an average of 14 percent? Have sex up to three times a month but believe that your peers are dancing in the sheets once a week.

Wadsworth noted that his research doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship because social comparisons aren’t the easiest things to measure. That, and happiness is almost entirely subjective.

“I can’t think of a better explanation for why how much sex other people are having would influence a person’s happiness,” he said. “We’re usually not looking down, and therefore thinking of ourselves as better off, but we’re usually looking up and therefore feeling insufficient and inadequate.”

The Benefits of Sex (Besides Happiness)

Besides creating an overall sense of well-being, the health benefits of sex include burning unwanted calories, lowering your level of stress, building a stronger heart muscle, and increasing your relationship satisfaction. 

For more information on how sex is good for you, visit Healthline’s Healthy Sex Center to see how you can enhance your happiness. 

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