The Surprising Added Benefit of Having Sex

Reason number 3,482,941 to love sexy time.

In addition to feeling great, having sex has a variety of health benefits. It boosts your immune system, lowers your blood pressure, reduces the likelihood of incontinence in women and prostate cancer in men, raises your pain threshold, reduces the risk of heart attack, helps you sleep, and eases stress. Not to mention, it's great exercise, and a whole lot more fun than doing bench presses. A recent study even found that it gives older people a boost in brain health.

Now, a new study, published in the journal Emotion, has found that having sex not only enhances your mood but also makes you feel like your life is more meaningful.

Researchers asked 152 college students to keep a daily diary over the course of 21 days in which they tracked their rate of sexual activity, their mood, and their sense of life purpose. The results found that those who had sex reported greater well-being and life-satisfaction the following day than those who did not.

This isn't that much of a surprise, given that sex releases the "happy hormone" dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the pleasure center in the brain. What is interesting is that it the boost to well-being was found predominantly in those who were in monogamous relationships, suggesting that intimacy plays a role in this feeling of overall well-being, as well. Those who were in stable relationships but did not have sex on a regular basis were not found to have the same positive effects as those who did, indicating that having a partner with whom you do not enjoy great sex is not enough to improve your quality of life.

In order to determine whether or not sex actually makes people happier or happy people simply have more sex, the researchers conducted a a time-lagged analysis. They found that while sexual activity on Day 1 was correlated with self-fulfillment and a better mood on Day 2, it did not function as a predictor of further sexual engagement, again leading credence to the belief that it was the sex that was causing partners to feel more joyful, rather than the other way around.

Like any study, this one has limitations, as it's largely based on self-reports and the participants were clearly aware of its subject matter. But it's important nonetheless because an increasing body of research indicates that Americans are entering somewhat of a sex crisis.

Marriage rates in the U.S. have hit a historic low, and a recent study by the Pew Research Center predicts that at least 25% of Millennials will remain single forever. And even those who are in committed relationships are having less sex, largely thanks to "technoference." A recent study found that 10 percent of people admit to checking their phones during sex. And, in an even more worrying trend, many people are opting to watch Netflix at night instead of having private time with their partners.

According to Cambridge statistician David Spiegelhalte, couples were having sex an average of five times a month in 1990, but now are down to just three, representing a forty percent decrease in under twenty years. At this rate, by 2030, couples won't be having sex at all.

The study is therefore significant in showing that, like sleep, regular sex is not simply something to squeeze in when your schedule allows for it, but a vital part of your emotional well-being. And to give your sex life a major boost, check out New Science Proves That Men with This Have Better Sex Lives.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more