Author: Lynn Stuart Parramore
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 suggest 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” they estimate that getting it on just once a month or 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 happiness from sex can bring you, it also debunks the old myth that having more money means you’ll have more sex. In fact, Blachflower and Oswald find 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 who 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, 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? 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 we’re getting more than the guy 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 people 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.
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of “Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.” She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.