There are a lot benefits to having sex — physical, emotional and otherwise — but a new study has found that American couples are spending less and less time between the sheets than they did a decade ago. What gives?
“The data show a major reversal from previous decades in terms of marriage and sex,” lead author Jean Twenge says in a statement. “In the 1990s, married people had sex more times per year than never-married people, but by the mid-2000s that reversed, with the never-married having more sex.”
In fact, the study by the San Diego State University found that Americans who were married or living together between 2010 and 2014 had sex 16 fewer times per year compared to 2000-2004.
This could possibly be due to the fact that later-born generations are having sex less often than people born earlier in the 20th century, which Twenge discovered in an earlier study she had conducted in 2016.
Twenge also found that age plays a big role.
People in their 20s are having sex more than 80 times per year on average. That number declines to 60 times per year by age 45, and 20 times per year by age 65.
But is that enough?
When it comes to couples, York University assistant professor of psychology Amy Muise found that there is a certain number of times a week couples consider to be ideal.
According to Muise, once a week is the number of times most couples say make them happy and signal a good relationship.
Despite popular belief, Muise says, more sex isn’t always better.
“People usually think about the link between sexual frequency and well-being,” Muise says. “It’s always thought that the more you sex you’re going to have, the more happy you’re going to be with your relationship or life. So we actually found kind of a leveling off of this association… Which means, having sex more than once a week actually didn’t increase the well-being [for couples].”
For singles, the waters are a little muddier.
“My sense is that for some single people having more sex is probably good, but for others it might actually be associated with less well-being,” Muise says. “But overall we saw no link between sexual frequency and happiness in the single population.”
For relationship expert Nicole McCance, doing the horizontal limbo once a week is both ideal and realistic for many couples, with or without kids or even if they live busy lives.
“I tell people to try not and keep tabs though because it will drive you crazy,” she says. “Doing that can cause a lot of conflict.”
But if sex isn’t regular, or is scarce, there may be something more at play and could signal a red flag within the relationship.
“If you’re not having enough sex, ask yourself how connected and close you are with your partner,” McCance says. “Often lack of sex is a symptom that something bigger is going on in the relationship. It could be that you don’t feel nurtured by your partner during the day, so of course you’re not going to open yourself up and your body to your partner at night.”
And whether you’re single or in a relationship, having sex regularly can help people in many different ways. The release of endorphins during the act, for example, can help regulate people’s moods.
“We are social creatures,” McCance says. “We like physical touch. It makes us feel calmer in someone else’s presence. It gives us that intimacy that gives us a bit of a break from life.”
The benefits of sex
Such pleasure comes with all sort of benefits.
One perhaps surprising plus is that it helps burn some calories. According to a 2013 study published in the journal PLOS One, men can lose an average of 276 calories during a 30-minute romp session, and 213 calories for women.
(But if you want to engage in a solid session, quality sex actually only lasts between three and 13 minutes — not hours like many believe — a 2013 Penn State University study found.)
According to the University of California, Santa Barbara, other ways in which sex can be beneficial include:
- Sex releases the hormone oxytocin, which builds feelings of trust and love in partners
- Having sex only once per month means men are twice as likely to die in the following 10 years than men who had sex more than four times per month
- Sex can lower stress and blood pressure
- Sex can help you look younger because it increases the production of the human growth hormone — a hormone which improves muscle tone
- “Doing it” can also regulate women’s menstrual cycles and improve vaginal and pelvic muscle function