Sex makes you happier than money

New data suggest getting it on just once a month has the same effect on your psyche as a massive raise in salary

Published October 10, 2014 11:00AM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


Money can't buy you love. But is making love better than making money? Researchers David Blachflower of Dartmouth College and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England have suggested that the answer is yes.

Back in 2004, they examined the data on the self-reported levels of sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 people, and found that sex "enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations" that they estimate that getting it on just once a month more is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by receiving an additional $50,000 in income for the average American.

Their paper, "Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study," which appeared in the National Bureau of Economic Research, not only estimates the dollar amount that happiness from sex can bring you, but it also debunks the old myth that having more money means that you'll have more sex. In fact, Blachflower and Oswald find that there's zero difference in the frequency of sex from one income level to the next. But they do find that sex appears to bring more happiness to highly educated people than those with lower educational status, which roughly corresponds to economic status.

The long and short of it is that the happiest people are those that are having the most sexytime, though it's not clear whether sex leads to happiness or if happy people just have more sex.

Happiness has become a popular area of research for all manner of investigators, and sex comes up again and again as a key element in the human happiness equation. Another study, which was conducted by Carsten Grimm from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, found that sex is pretty much the best thing going for happiness, generating the most pleasure, meaning, and engagement for people. Drinking alcohol and partying ranked second for overall happiness, followed by volunteering at number three and meditation/religion at number four. On the other hand, using Facebook and doing housework both ranked low on the happiness scale. Working for pay was even lower. One caveat with this bit of research is that it looked at text messsages as an indicator of attitudes, and so the sample skewed young.

So how often should you be having sex to achieve maximum happiness? Funnily enough, University of Colorado Boulder researchers found that it depends on how much you think your friends and neighbors are getting it on. Having more sex seems to make us happy, but thinking that we're getting more than the guy or gal next door makes us even happier.

Back to the sex/money question, there are indications that having more nookie is linked to making more money. A study led by Nick Drydakis, economics lecturer at Angila Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, found that folks who had sex three or four times a week earned more dough than those who had less frequent sex. Drydakis commented that a lack of sex can lead to loneliness, anxiety, and depression that could negatively impact working life. He pointed to the famous hierarchy of needs theory developed by Abraham Maslow, which suggests that humans have to meet their basic needs like food, water, and sexual activity before they can achieve success in other areas of life.

It seems clear that the pursuit of happiness definitely happens between the sheets. But in addition to sex, make sure you get enough sleep, too. Researchers have found that a substance called hypocretin, which regulates sleep, also governs emotions, especially joy and well-being, and that adequate sleep is critical to happinness.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

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