When it comes to sex, people tend to have the same "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality -- they're happier when they're getting more than what they perceive to be normal, according to new University of Colorado research.

Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at CU, studied how sexual frequency correlates with happiness.

Like income, the happiness linked with having more sex can rise or fall depending on how individuals believe they measure up to their peers, Wadsworth found.

His paper "Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness: How Other People's Sex Lives are Related to Our Sense of Well-Being" was published in last month's edition of Social Indicators Research.

Wadsworth used national survey data and statistical analyses and found that people reported steadily higher levels of happiness as they reported steadily higher sexual frequency. But people who believed they were having less sex than their peers were unhappier than those who believed they were having as much or more than their peers.

"Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier," Wadsworth said in a statement.

For his research, Wadsworth analyzed data from the General Social Survey, which has been around since 1972.

The survey included questions about sexual frequency since 1989. Wadsworth's sample included 15,386 people who were surveyed between 1993 and 2006.

After controlling for many other factors, including income, education, marital status, health, age, race and other characteristics, respondents who reported having sex at least two to three times a month were 33 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness than those who reported having no sex during the previous 12 months.

The happiness effect appears to rise with frequency. Compared to those who had no sex in the previous year, those reporting a once-weekly frequency were 44 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness. Those reporting having sex two to three times a week are 55 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness.

When it comes to income, Wadsworth noted, people can infer how much a neighbor is making perhaps by an expensive home renovation, flashy new car or frequent vacations. Sex is much more of a private matter -- but the mass media and other sources provide clues.

For example, Wadsworth said, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men's Health, Men's Journal and the AARP Magazine -- with a combined circulation of 30 million -- often report the results of their own or others' sex surveys.

Also, television and movie depictions might also play a role, and, Wadsworth writes, "there is plenty of evidence that information concerning normative sexual behavior is learned through discussions within peer groups and friendship networks."

Wadsworth is also a research associate at CU-Boulder's Institute of Behavioral Science and his research interests include the general study of happiness.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com ___

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • From Dr. Oz

    <strong>Take a Cue from 50 "Shades of Grey "</strong> Using sex toys is a very practical way to spice up your sex life, and should be encouraged as long both partners are agreeable. Ultimately, one of the reasons "Fifty Shades" is so great is that it was about honesty and transparency in a relationship, and that communication and discussion makes for better sex. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/mondays-with-marlo-why-50-shades-of-grey-is-great-dr-oz_n_1764306.html?1344876406">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Laura Berman

    <strong>Synchronize Your Orgasms</strong> If timing is an issue between partners, the partner who is slower to climax may want to work on getting aroused more beforehand. Vibrators are also an option and some can even be worn for hands-free stimulation. There is also a new cream for men called Promescent than can prevent premature ejaculation. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/01/his-and-hers-orgasms-from_n_1178748.html">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Pepper Schwartz

    <strong>Find Your Body's Erogenous Zones</strong> It's not all about the obvious spots. There may be many parts of your body you've overlooked when it comes to sex and sensuality. After all, our entire bodies are a map of interconnected nerves, so a slow and sensuous exploration of one another's bodies may yield some surpises for both of you. From the ankles to the nape of the neck or the small of the back, experiment with light touch and try varying degrees of massage pressure. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/your-bodys-erogenous-zones-from-dr-pepper-schwartz_n_2025782.html?1351519268">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Oz

    <strong>Up Your Libibo By Losing That Belly</strong> For men, testosterone levels may vary, but losing belly fat can up your libido because a big belly actually converts testosterone into estrogen! <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/mondays-with-marlo-upping-a-libido-dr-oz_n_1764893.html?1344876920">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Sue Johnson

    <strong>Connect Emotionally for Better Sex</strong> The best way to improve your sex life is to improve the emotional connection in your relationship. Communication and safety are key in telling your lover what you do and don't like. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/mondays-with-marlo-how-to-have-better-sex_n_1711507.html?1345472329">Watch</a>

  • From Deepak Chopra

    Keeping Sex Interesting In Your Marriage Make it a surprise every time, don't have expectations and don't analyze as its happening. Sex should be spontaneous and natural, and that will keep it fresh. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/watch-keeping-sex-interesting-in-your-marriage_n_1644293.html?1341528631">Watch</a>

  • From Lauren Frances

    <strong>Experiment With Bondage</strong> Consentual light bondage can really spice up a couples sex life, but sometimes there is a temptation to keep pushing the envelope. If there is any concern on either partners part about venturing too far, a simple discussion and agreement about boundaries can keep the experimentation fun and comfortable for both parties. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/watch-experimenting-with-_n_1509921.html?1337009935">Watch</a>

  • From Deepak Chopra

    <strong>Do Not Resist the Biological Imperative</strong> Sex is a biological imperative that in humans has taken on added dimensions. Music, soap operas, art and movies are all influenced by it. Joy has its own biology, and when we suppress that impulse, we see deviant behaviors emerge. So give in to your healthy impulses. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/21/deepak-chopra-on-the-heal_n_881240.html">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Pepper Schwartz

    <strong>Explore Your Man's Secret G-Spot</strong> Men do have a hidden G-spot, but many men are a bit squeamish about it. It's the prostate gland and men can actually achieve orgasm just from its stimulation. Dr. Pepper Schwartz discussed how to find this special spot on a man, and revealed an unexpected benefit of engaging in this sexual practice. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/hidden-g-spot-on-men-from-dr-pepper-schwartz-marlo-thomas-mondays-with-marlo_n_2024572.html">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Oz

    <strong>Let Sex Improve Your Longevity</strong> The data is very clear that sex improves our health. Men who increase their weekly sex activity from once to twice a week can increase their life expectancy by up to three years. For women it is not the frequency but intimacy that makes the difference, but for all of us, the connection with another that truly heals. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/mondays-with-marlo-health-benefits-of-sex-dr-oz_n_1764967.html?1344877015">Watch</a>

  • From Dr. Pepper Schwartz

    <strong>Forget These Three Myths</strong> 1) Sex drive diminishes with age 2) Passion Can't Exist in Long Term relationship 3) Female orgasm can only happen through intercourse None of the above are true, so don't believe it when people tell you "That's just the way it is."<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/dr-pepper-schwartz-three-sex-myths-dispelled-mondays-with-marlo_n_2025444.html?1351522937">Watch</a>

  • From Ellie Krieger

    <strong>Enjoy Foods That Are Aphrodisiacs</strong> We've all heard that oysters and chocolate can have an aphrodisiac effect because they trigger some of the same feelings we experience when we fall in love. But Ellie Krieger says that the <em>way </em>we eat can also stimulate the sex drive. For a more tactile, sensual experience try eating and feeding one another foods that we eat with our fingers -- maybe a shrimp cocktail or something like that. It's the interaction and tehesharing of the sensual experience that really does the trick.