The Happiness Lab

How (the right kind of) sex can improve your quality of life

According to a new study, being active in the bedroom can improve your mood and give you a greater sense of purpose

Ruben Montenegro

Does sex give life greater meaning? That’s the question that prompted researchers to carry out a pioneering study in the field of sexual health.

There are endless benefits to having sex. It keeps us physically fit and helps us burn calories, it strengthens our immune system with the release of hormones and it can even improve our memory. But there is one area that hasn’t yet been explored: how sex affects our emotional health and our perception of the meaning of life.

This is the first study to link well-being to sexual intimacy

To address this question, Todd Kashdan from the University of George Mason, along with other researchers, completed a study on the relationship between sex and well-being. The paper, published this year in the journal Emotions, found that sex, positive well-being and our understanding of the meaning of life are related. The positive effects of sex can even last until the next day, according to the study. But all this depends on the kind of sexual relationship we have.

The results are based on a study of 152 volunteers who were asked to keep a diary of their sexual activity and level of satisfaction for 21 days. The participants were made up of university students, aged between 18 to 20. Most of the participants were women (76%) and 64% were in a relationship.

The volunteers were asked to rate their level of fulfillment every day on a scale of one to seven and whether they were in a positive or negative mood. They were then asked about their sexual activity for the day and what level of pleasure and intimacy they had experienced. From this data, the experts were able to reach many conclusions.

On days when a person had sex, they were more positive and even said they had a greater sense of meaning in their life. But the researchers wanted to know what came first: sex or the sense of fulfillment. They studied the data, focusing on the length of time these feelings lasted and came to a discovery: a person who said they had sexual relations experienced a more positive outlook on life and greater satisfaction on the following day as well.

Sex strengthens our immune system and improves our memory

But when measured the other way, the researchers found that positive mood did not necessarily correlate to sex.

Another interesting finding involved the role of sex in romantic relationships. Surprisingly, the researchers found that it was the most intimate and pleasurable experiences that best improved mood – not necessarily sex between a couple. In other words, the quality of sex influences our well-being, regardless of whether we are in a loving relationship or having a one-night stand.

This study is the first step to linking personal well-being to sexual intimacy. As the authors of the study acknowledge, there is still a long way to go. It is important to test new variables and widen the age range, but for now it seems that a satisfying sex life can improve our mood. But, in my opinion, the meaning of life as a path to personal growth is likely to depend on a lot more concrete factors that don’t disappear at the end of two days. That said, our perception on life is influenced by our mood, and as a result, our satisfaction with ourselves and the people we are with. This is where good sex can play a positive role.

English version by John Clarke.

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