An extensive study by Tim Wadsworth, including 27,500 men and women aged 40-80years in 29 countries and using the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors, found a relationship between frequency of sexual behavior and happiness. The more sexual frequency—the more reported happiness.
While this study confirmed the findings of earlier large sample studies with regard to the correlation of frequency of sexual activity and happiness, Wadsworth’s study added another dimension. He found that when respondents compared their frequency to the sexual frequency of others, their happiness decreased or increased depending on whether their frequency was lower or higher than others in their reference group!
What Does this Imply?
If we consider statistics as starting points for thinking, than these findings invite self–reflection and mutual consideration of sexual satisfaction and social comparison for ourselves and with our partners.
The Frequency Factor
There clearly is evidence that when we control for age, physical health, gender, educational levels etc. sexual activity is associated with well being and happiness.
But is the happiness from sexual activity only a function of frequency?
Yes and No. When you work with couples and look at the findings from other couple studies it seems that active ongoing sexual connection does matter; but, it is more complicated than just numbers.
The Social Comparison Factor
Wadsworth’s finding that happiness from sexual activity was relative to the comparison of frequency rates of others, is perhaps not that surprising. As humans, from our earliest days, we define ourself in terms of others. It is perhaps understandable that we want to match the norm or surpass it.
Because most couples don’t really know how others are doing in the bedroom, (men don’t talk and women don’t talk that specifically) people often want to know – Is this normal? Is she/he right? Is something wrong with me? As such, there may be some merit in an individual or couple reading and comparing their relationship with the results of an online survey, an article in a popular journal or a self-help book to normalize, validate or inform them.
If statistics become a starting point for an intimate discussion about sexual life together, encourages more initiation on both parts, validates the sentiments of a partner who wants more intimacy or another who feels obliged to give in–rather than a cause for judgment or reduced happiness—then statistics that invite comparison with others will serve them well.
Can Happiness be Absolute?
If comparison with others becomes a starting point for an endless attempt to be and have more than others, be it in income, sexual frequency or cars, than the quest for happiness will be a difficult one.
In his extensive study, Wadsworth gives us a great deal to consider.
The question and answer that we might take away is whether, when all is read and said, the sexual relationship we share brings us mutual and absolute happiness–regardless of what the rest of the world is doing!
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Last reviewed: 10 May 2013