In the Mood for Love or Vice Versa? Exploring the Relations Among Sexual Activity, Physical Affection, Affect, and Stress in the Daily Lives of Mid-Aged Women
How do physical affection, sexual activity, mood, and stress influence one another in the daily lives of mid-aged women? Fifty-eight women (M age, 47.6 yrs) recorded physical affection, several different sexual behaviors, stressful events, and mood ratings every morning for 36 weeks. Using multilevel modeling, we determined that physical affection or sexual behavior with a partner on one day significantly predicted lower negative mood and stress and higher positive mood on the following day. The relation did not hold for orgasm without a partner. Additionally, positive mood on one day predicted more physical affection and sexual activity with a partner, but fewer solo orgasms the following day. Negative mood was mostly unrelated to next-day sexual activity or physical affection. Sexual orientation, living with a partner, and duration of relationship moderated some of these effects. Results support a bidirectional causal model in which dyadic sexual interaction and physical affection improve mood and reduce stress, with improved mood and reduced stress in turn increasing the likelihood of future sex and physical affection.