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Health & Wellness

To be happy together, how often does a couple need sex?

Most people believe more sex equals greater happiness. But a study found there is a magic number when it comes to sex among committed couples and that's once a week.

Having sex more often than that doesn’t make us any happier, said the study’s lead author, Amy Muise, a social psychologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto-Mississauga. But if the sex becomes less frequent than weekly, happiness declines.

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“Once a week makes sense in some ways because I think many people would still see this as having regular sex," said Muise.

Muise and her colleagues used data from more than 30,000 Americans to look at the relationship between happiness and sexual frequency. In one of the bigger surprises, results were the same for men and women, for young and old, and for long and short relationships. That's right: once a week.

The researchers also looked at the impact of money on happiness.

What did they find?

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Sex beats money

That's right. Frequent sex was more strongly associated with satisfaction than one's level of wealth.

For Americans who feel pressured to turn up the heat in their relationships, “it’s nice to know that once a week will do,” said Helen Fisher, a senior researcher at the Kinsey Institute. “These researchers have found the sexual thermometer for modern times.”

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That weekly sex, Fisher said, affects three different brain systems, which in turn, affect our the health of our relationships and our happiness.

“Having sex boosts our testosterone, which will sustain our sexual drive,” Fisher explained.

“Any stimulation of the genitals will drive the dopamine system, which will lead to feelings of romantic love. And orgasms stimulate the production of oxytocin, which creates feelings of deep attachment," she said.

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More = happier?

One thing the study doesn’t address is whether people who are having less sex would be happier if they increased their frequency of lovemaking, says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

“Something the researchers didn’t look at is, if you took the people who are unhappy and directed them to have more sex, would they be happier,” Saltz says.

Still, Fisher said, if weekly lovemaking isn't happening for you, “put it on your schedule, if you can’t be spontaneous.”

This story was originally published in June 2016.

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