Movies, music, and news reports have all echoed the same sentiments about sex: more sex, more happiness. However, a recent study found couples who have sex every night, despite being too tired, too stressed, and too distracted, are no happier than those who have sex just once a week.

"Our findings suggest that it's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don't need to have sex every day as long as you're maintaining that connection," said Amy Muise, lead researcher of the study and a social psychologist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto-Mississauga, in a press release.

Muise and her colleagues analyzed the results of surveys from more than 30,000 Americans, collected over 40 years in three different projects.

In the first study, researchers analyzed survey responses about sexual frequency and general happiness from more than 25,000 Americans (11,285 men, 14,225 women) who took the General Social Survey from 1989 to 2012. The survey covered a wide range of sociological issues, including opinions about race relations, religion, and sex. The happiness of the survey respondents increased with more frequent sex, but that frequency could be as little as once a week.

To compare happiness and sex frequency with happiness and income, the researchers conducted an online survey with 335 people (138 men, 197 women) who were in long-term relationships. The participants were asked about their annual income, which ranged from $15,000 to $75,000. In this survey, the difference in happiness between couples who had sex less than once a month and those who had it once a week was larger than couples who were making between $15,000 to $25,000 annually, and those making $50,000 and $75,000.

"People often think that more money and more sex equal more happiness, but this is only true up to a point," Muise said.

Lastly, a third study analyzed the survey results collected at three timeframes over 14 years from more than 2,400 married couples in the U.S. The findings revealed there wasn’t a strong link between sexual frequency and overall life satisfaction, but couples did report more satisfaction with their relationships as sex increased up to once a week. Consistent with the other survey results, there were no noticeable benefits of engaging in more sex.

All of these studies conclude more sex does not necessarily mean more happiness. Earlier this year, a recent study also found increasing sex frequency is not equated with a rise in happiness levels. In the study, researchers asked 32 of 64 married couples to double their rate of sex and respond to short daily surveys about happiness. The participants managed to have more sex, but they were not happier, and often found themselves feeling less energetic and having worse sex. This suggests sex quality matters more than sex frequency.

"It's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner without putting too much pressure on engaging in sex as frequently as possible," Muise said.

The take-home from this compilation of studies is, the reason why you’re having sex matters more than how often you’re having sex. Having sex because you want to is better than doing so because you feel you have to.  

Sources: Muise A et al. Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2015.

Loewenstein G, Krishnamurti T, Kopsic J et al. Does Increased Sexual Frequency Enhance Happiness? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 2015.