Is More Sex Always Better?

Public Domain Pictures
Source: Public Domain Pictures

According to a global survey by Durex, American adults ages 16-45 have sex 138 times per year on average, more sex than people in nearly every other country they surveyed (except France). Some therapists and self-help books encourage people to “kickstart” their relationship by having daily sex. But is more always better? Maybe not.

In set of studies, researchers Muise, Shimmack, and Impett (2016) looked at the link between sexual frequency and well-being in three different samples. In a national sample of 25,510 people aged 18-89 from across the United States, those who were in a romantic relationship had sex more frequently than those who were not. For those who were single, how happy they reported being with their lives was not at all related to how much sex they had had over the prior year. For those who were in romantic relationships, however, sexual frequency did predict their happiness, but only up to a point. People were happier if they were having more sex up to once a week on average. But people who had sex more than once a week were no happier than those who were having sex once a week.

Muise et al. (2016)
Sexual frequency predicts well-being for couples but not singles
Source: Muise et al. (2016)

In two other samples of romantic couples, the same effect emerged: people were more satisfied with their relationships and their lives the more frequently they had sex with their partners, but only up to once a week. After once a week, there was no additional increase in relationship quality or well=being. This was true regardless of people’s gender, age, or how long they’d been in their relationship.

The bottom line: in three samples, the researchers found that more sex is better, up to a point. In one of the samples, the difference in well-being among those having sex once a week versus less than once a month was greater than the difference in well-being among those who earned $50,00-$75,000 annually versus those who earned $15,000- $25,000 annually. But after once a week, there is no additional benefit.

Muise et al. (2016)
Associations between sex and well-being compared to income and well-being
Source: Muise et al. (2016)

More posts on sex in relationships:

Sexual frequency may matter not just for well-being but for your work life as well.

The secret to maintaining sexual desire over time?

Research on sexual frequency reveals interesting findings
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Adults in the US may have more sex than nearly every other country (except France), but is more always better? Research suggests maybe not.
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Sexual frequency predicts well-being for couples but not singles
Associations between sex and well-being compared to income and well-being
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Durex Global Sex Surveys. London: London International Group; 1998.

Muise, A., Schimmack, U., & Impett, E. A. (2016). Sexual frequency predicts greater well-being, but more is not always better. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(4), 295-302.

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