A new study reveals that it's the affection we get from our partners—and not the act of sex itself—that makes us happier.
Here's something most women probably could have told you: post-coital cuddling makes people happier than sex. And that's according to science—or at least a new compilation of studies published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Previous studies have shown a correlation between sex and increased well-being, but study co-author Anik Debrot says that's because having sex promotes the experience of affection.
"Sex seems not only beneficial because of its physiological or hedonic effects," she writes, "but because it promotes a stronger and more positive connection with the partner."
The new research is made up of four studies. In the first two, researchers evaluated the correlation between sex and happiness by conducting surveys of hundreds of men and women in romantic relationships. Both confirmed that having more sex leads to increased positivity and life satisfaction. But they also revealed that that satisfaction was dependent on the use of affectionate touching like hugging, kissing, and cuddling.
For the third and fourth studies, the researchers asked more than 100 couples to record in a diary when they had sex, when affection was shown, and what their mood was for 10 days. The results? The more sex a couple had during that 10-day period, the higher their relationship satisfaction was six months later—as long as they had also gotten lots of TLC.
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"Our findings suggest that it's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner," explained co-researcher Amy Muise. "But you don't need to have sex every day as long as you're maintaining that connection."
Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.