Happy with your sex life? That may have a lot to do with what you know about everyone else's sex life, according to a new study.
New research from the the University of Colorado Boulder found that sexual frequency corresponds with happiness. But there's one caveat. According to a press release, "The happiness linked with having more sex can rise or fall depending on how individuals believe they measure up to their peers."
Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at UC Boulder, analyzed General Social Survey data from 15,386 people surveyed between 1993 and 2006. He discovered that respondents who had sex at least two to three times a month were 33 percent more likely to self-report higher happiness levels than those who reported having no sexual encounters during the previous year. Compared to those who had no sex in the previous year, respondents who had sex once a week were 44 percent more likely to report more happiness, and respondents who reported having sex two to three times a week were 55 percent more likely to report more happiness.
However, if respondents were having sex two to three times a month but believed their peers were having sex once a week, they were 14 percent less likely to report a higher level of happiness.
"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 the CU Boulder press release. "Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier."
A report of his findings, "Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness: How Other People's Sex Lives are Related to Our Sense of Well-Being," was published in the February 2013 edition of Social Indicators Research.
The new research is a good reminder not to compare yourself to others, but also to think about how accurate your perceptions of others' sex lives are. Surveys go a long way toward correcting misinformation about what the Joneses are really up to in the bedroom. A 2011 questionnaire from iVillage debunked the common myth that women lose interest in sex after marriage. The survey found that a healthy sex life is important to 75 percent of wives. And although the notion persists that women aren't as into sex -- at least not interesting sex -- as men, the 2011 KY Good In Bed Survey found that 43.7 percent of women were bored with the frequency of their sex life, and 57.9 percent were willing to experiment in the bedroom. And thanks to research, we know how often married couples have sex. According to the 2005 General Social Survey, it's 66 times a year -- translating to just over once a week. In 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported: "Frequency of sex for married couples varies by age: Couples 18 to 29 are friskiest, reporting sex 109 times a year, while couples in their 60s do it 32 times yearly."
Still, knowing how you stack up to others only tells you if you're average. It doesn't tell you whether how much or little sex you're having is right for your relationship.
"[T]hese things are meaningful only if there's some sense of what other people are like," Wadsworth said in the press release. "As such, we can only be wealthy if others are poor, or sexually active if others are inactive."