Does having more sex mean you have a healthy sex life? Not really


The key to a healthier sex life lies in the quality of the relationship, not the frequency of sex. Photo: AFP

When it comes to how often couples have sex, scientists in some countries have actually documented a number.

A 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that the average adult gets some action around 54 times a year, or about once a week.

But why does this matter?

The frequency of intercourse is linked to happiness.

In 2015, researchers writing in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal found that couples who have sex at least once a week are happier with their relationship than those who get it less often.

Being in a happy relationship leads to better sex, not vice versa. Stock photo from Photos.comBeing in a happy relationship leads to better sex, not vice versa. Stock photo from Photos.comHowever, the study also notes that having sex more than once a week does not affect your well-being any further; in other words, there’s no need to overcompensate. Stick to whatever is comfortable for you and your partner.

So, if it isn’t about frequency, then what are the factors that impact your sex life quality? Age, values, lifestyle, innate sex drive, health and the quality of your relationship play a role.

For the latter, the tendency for humans to become familiar or bored with something after an extended period of time causes something known as "sexual satiation".

It usually sets after two or three years. It’s not a fault, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

The way you address that satiation is critical for long-term happiness, though.

For some couples, satiation means comfort, security and predictability. For others satiation is a letdown, or a sign that they are incompatible and should break up.

Another study at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University broke down sexual frequency by age.

The number game

People under 30 have sex 112 times a year on average (over twice a week); the frequency declines to 86 times a year among 30-39 year-olds; 69 times annually for those aged 40-49; and roughly 52 times yearly for couples in their 50s and beyond.

Unfortunately, you might end up in a place where you and your partner don’t agree on what’s the right number in terms of frequency. Discussing it, even with the help of a professional counsellor, is a critical part of getting on the same page on the issue, but comparing your sex life to statistics is not helpful or necessary.

There's also your health and sex drive to consider.

It’s common to lose interest in sex from time to time, and libido levels vary throughout your life. It’s also normal for your interest not to match your partner’s at times.

But, a prolonged period of low libido can be a cause for concern for some people. It can often be an indicator of an underlying health condition.

In women, a few potential causes of low libido could be low testosterone, medications, depression, chronic illness, stress, sleep problems and even low self-esteem.

Bad lifestyle habits can reduce your sexual drive as well. This includes:

  • Bingeing on poor quality foods: junk food, refined carbs and trans fats can slow your blood flow and affect how well you perform during sex. Cut out the junk and go for plenty of fruits, veggies and plant-based protein.`
  • Too much alcohol: One glass of wine or a beer might help you relax, but a booze binge won’t help your performance in the bedroom. Men especially can struggle with performance issues when they have too much alcohol in their system.
  • Smoking: Chemicals in tobacco can mess with blood flow, which can cause sexual problems, especially for men. Talk to your doctor about how you can kick the habit.
  • Not exercising: This will have an adverse effect on your sex life. Find a healthy balance when it comes to hitting the gym to put you in the mood for sex.
  • Not sleeping well: Changes in hormone levels due to the lack of sleep causes a decrease in libido. Plus, a lack of sleep will make you feel awful, which likely means you won’t be in the mood for intimacy.
  • Ageing and sex hormones: Most hormones decline with age, especially the sex hormones. In men the decline is a more gradual change throughout their lifetime, while women experience an abrupt change during their years leading up to menopause. Seeing your doctor for bio-identical hormone therapy may help to improve sex life.
Eating poor quality foods can slow your blood flow and affect your performance in bed. — 123rf.comEating poor quality foods can slow your blood flow and affect your performance in bed. — 123rf.com

Before you start worrying about a few weeks of missed opportunities between the sheets, don’t forget that the goal of a relationship is happiness.

Sex is important to the extent that it makes a couple happy. Research would agree that relationship happiness leads to better sex, not vice versa.

If you and your partner aren’t in sync when it comes to how often you are having intercourse, the first line of assessment and treatment is to focus on your relationship.

Talk about what’s going on, open up about your needs and fantasies, and don’t judge each other.

When you communicate with each other properly, you’ll cultivate the right amount of psychological intimacy needed to improve sexual intimacy.

Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a functional medicine practitioner. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Sex , Couples , Dating , Intercourse

   

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