Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 357–368 | Cite as

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

  • Mary H. Burleson
  • Wenda R. Trevathan
  • Michael Todd
Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Sexual behavior Mood Mid-aged women Physical affection Daily diary 

References

  1. Agmo, A. (1999). Sexual motivation–an inquiry into events determining the occurrence of sexual behavior. Behavioural Brain Research, 105, 129–150.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agmo, A., & Berenfeld, R. (1990). Reinforcing properties of ejaculation in the male rat: Role of opioids and dopamine. Behavioral Neuroscience, 104, 177–182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Apt, C., Hurlbert, D. F., Pierce, A. P., & White, L. C. (1996). Relationship satisfaction, sexual characteristics and the psychosocial well-being of women. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 5, 195–210.Google Scholar
  5. Avis, N. E., Stellato, R., Crawford, S., Johannes, C., & Longcope, C. (2000). Is there an association between menopause status and sexual functioning? Menopause, 7, 297–309.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Strong, D., Carnes, L., Vukadinovic, Z., & Long, J. S. (2003). The relation between mood and sexuality in heterosexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 217–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Strong, D., & Vukadinovic, Z. (2003). The relation between mood and sexuality in gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 231–242.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barlow, D. H., Sakheim, D. K., & Beck, J. G. (1983). Anxiety increases sexual arousal. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92, 49–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bauer, D. J., & Curran, P. J. (2005). Probing interactions in fixed and multilevel regression: Inferential and graphical techniques. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 40, 373–400.Google Scholar
  10. Beck, J. G., & Bozman, A. W. (1995). Gender differences in sexual desire: The effects of anger and anxiety. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 24, 595–612.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Benington, J. H., & Frank, M. G. (2003). Cellular and molecular connections between sleep and synaptic plasticity. Progress in Neurobiology, 69, 71–101.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Biernbaum, M. A., & Ruscio, M. (2004). Differences between matched heterosexual and non-heterosexual college students on defense mechanisms and psychopathological symptoms. Journal of Homosexuality, 48, 125–141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blaicher, W., Gruber, D., Bieglmayer, C., Blaicher, A. M., Knogler, W., & Huber, J. C. (1999). The role of oxytocin in relation to female sexual arousal. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 47, 125–126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2004). Money, sex and happiness: An empirical study. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series (Working paper no. 10499).Google Scholar
  15. Bodinger, L., Hermesh, H., Aizenberg, D., Valevski, A., Marom, S., Shiloh, R., et al. (2002). Sexual function and behavior in social phobia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 63, 874–879.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Bozman, A. W., & Beck, J. G. (1991). Covariation of sexual desire and sexual arousal: The effects of anger and anxiety. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 47–60.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Burleson, M. H., Trevathan, W. R., & Gregory, W. L. (2002). Sexual behavior in lesbian and heterosexual women: Effects of menstrual cycle phase and partner availability. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 27, 489–503.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Call, V., Sprecher, S., & Schwartz, P. (1995). The incidence and frequency of marital sex in a national sample. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 639–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Carmichael, M. S., Humbert, R., Dixen, J., Palmisano, G., Greenleaf, W., & Davidson, J. M. (1987). Plasma oxytocin increases in the human sexual response. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 64, 27–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Mayr, U., & Nesselroade, J. R. (2000). Emotional experience in everyday life across the adult life span. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 644–655.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carter, C. S. (1998). Neuroendocrine perspectives on social attachment and love. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23, 779–818.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cyranowski, J. M., Bromberger, J., Youk, A., Matthews, K., Kravitz, H. M., & Powell, L. H. (2004). Lifetime depression history and sexual function in women at midlife. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 539–548.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dennerstein, L., Dudley, E., & Burger, H. (2001). Are changes in sexual functioning during midlife due to aging or menopause? Fertility and Sterility, 76, 456–460.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dennerstein, L., Randolph, J., Taffe, J., Dudley, E., & Burger, H. (2002). Hormones, mood, sexuality, and the menopausal transition. Fertility and Sterility, 77, S42–S50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dutton, J. (2003). Redbook's steamiest sex survey ever! Redbook, 200, 192–193, 209–210.Google Scholar
  26. Exton, M. S., Krueger, T. H. C., Koch, M., Paulson, E., Knapp, W., Hartmann, U., et al. (2001). Coitus-induced orgasm stimulates prolactin secretion in healthy subjects. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 26, 287–294.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fahrenberg, J., Bruegner, G., Foerster, F., & Kaeppler, C. (1999). Ambulatory assessment of diurnal changes with a hand-held computer: Mood, attention and morningness-eveningness. Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 641–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fortenberry, J. D., Temkit, M. H., Tu, W., Graham, C. A., Katz, B. P., & Orr, D. P. (2005). Daily mood, partner support, sexual interest, and sexual activity among adolescent women. Health Psychology, 24, 252–257.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Graham, C. A., Sanders, S. A., Milhausen, R. R., & McBride, K. R. (2004). Turning on and turning off: A focus group study of the factors that affect women's sexual arousal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 527–538.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hackbert, L., & Heiman, J. R. (2002). Acute dehydroepiandrosterone (dhea) effects on sexual arousal in postmenopausal women. Journal of Women's Health and Gender Based Medicine, 11, 155–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Heiman, J. R. (1980). Female sexual response patterns: Interactions of physiological, affective, and contextual cues. Archives of General Psychiatry, 37, 1311–1316.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Heinrichs, M., Baumgartner, T., Kirschbaum, C., & Ehlert, U. (2003). Social support and oxytocin interact to suppress cortisol and subjective responses to psychosocial stress. Biological Psychiatry, 54, 1389–1398.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hofmann, D. A., & Gavin, M. B. (1998). Centering decisions in hierarchical linear models: Implications for research in organizations. Journal of Management, 24, 623–641.Google Scholar
  34. Hoon, P., Wincze, J. P., & Hoon, E. (1977). A test of reciprocal inhibition: Are anxiety and sexual arousal in women mutually inhibitory? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 86, 65–74.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. House, J. S. (2001). Social isolation kills, but how and why? Psychosomatic Medicine, 63, 273–274.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. House, J. S., Landis, K. R., & Umberson, D. (1988). Social relationships and health. Science, 241, 540–545.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kennedy, S. H., Dickens, S. E., Eisfeld, B. S., & Bagby, R. M. (1999). Sexual dysfunction before antidepressant therapy in major depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 56, 201–208.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kurdek, L. A. (1991). The relations between reported well-being and divorce history, availability of a proximate adult, and gender. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Laan, E., Everaerd, W., van Bellen, G., & Hanewald, G. (1994). Women's sexual and emotional responses to male- and female-produced erotica. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 153–169.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Laan, E., Everaerd, W., van Berlo, R., & Rijs, L. (1995). Mood and sexual arousal in women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 441–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Leigh, B. C., Temple, M. T., & Trocki, K. F. (1993). The sexual behavior of U.S. adults: Results from a national survey. American Journal of Public Health, 83, 1400–1408.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Light, K. C., Smith, T. E., Johns, J. M., Brownley, K. A., Hofheimer, J. A., & Amico, J. A. (2000). Oxytocin responsivity in mothers of infants: A preliminary study of relationships with blood pressure during laboratory stress and normal ambulatory activity. Health Psychology, 19, 560–567.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lund, I., Ge, Y., Yu, L. C., Uvnas-Moberg, K., Wang, J., Yu, C., et al. (2005). Repeated massage-like stimulation induces long-term effects on nociception: Contribution of oxytocinergic mechanisms. European Journal of Neuroscience, 22, 1553–1554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Meisler, A. W., & Carey, M. P. (1991). Depressed affect and male sexual arousal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 541–554.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Meston, C. M., & Gorzalka, B. B. (1996). Differential effects of sympathetic activation on sexual arousal in sexually dysfunctional and functional women. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 582–591.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mitchell, W. B., DiBartolo, P. M., Brown, T. A., & Barlow, D. H. (1998). Effects of positive and negative mood on sexual arousal in sexually functional males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 197–207.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moyer, C. A., Rounds, J., & Hannum, J. W. (2004). A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 3–18.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998). The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1333–1349.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Muthen, L. K., & Muthen, B. O. (1998). Mplus user's guide. Los Angeles, CA: Muthen & Muthen.Google Scholar
  50. Neumann, I., Wigger, A., Torner, L., Holsboer, F., & Landgraf, R. (2000). Brain oxytocin inhibits basal and stress-induced activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in male and female rats: Partial action within the paraventricular nucleus. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 12, 235–243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Palace, E. M., & Gorzalka, B. B. (1990). The enhancing effects of anxiety on arousal in sexually dysfunctional and functional women. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 403–411.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Paredes, R. G., & Vazquez, B. (1999). What do female rats like about sex? Paced mating. Behavioural Brain Research, 105, 117–127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sanders, D., Warner, P., Backstrom, T., & Bancroft, J. (1983). Mood, sexuality, hormones and the menstrual cycle: I. Changes in mood and physical state: Description of subjects and method. Psychosomatic Medicine, 45, 487–501.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Senn, C. Y., & Desmarais, S. (2004). Impact of interaction with a partner or friend on the exposure effects of pornography and erotica. Violence and Victims, 19, 645–658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Suh, E., Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Triandis, H. C. (1998). The shifting basis of life satisfaction judgments across cultures: Emotions versus norms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 484–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thompson, L. Y., Snyder, C. R., Hoffman, L., Michael, S. T., Rasmussen, H. N., Billings, L. S., et al. (2005). Dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations. Journal of Personality, 73, 313–359.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Uvnas-Moberg, K. (1997). Oxytocin linked antistress effects–the relaxation and growth response. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 161 (Suppl. 640), 38–42.Google Scholar
  58. Uvnas-Moberg, K. (1998). Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23, 819–835.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Warner, P., & Bancroft, J. (1988). Mood, sexuality, oral contraceptives and the menstrual cycle. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 32, 417–427.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. West, S. G., & Hepworth, J. T. (1991). Statistical issues in the study of temporal data: Daily experiences. Journal of Personality, 59, 609–662.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wolchik, S. A., Beggs, V. E., Wincze, J. P., Sakheim, D. K., Barlow, D. H., & Mavissakalian, M. (1980). The effect of emotional arousal on subsequent sexual arousal in men. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 89, 595–598.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary H. Burleson
    • 1
  • Wenda R. Trevathan
    • 2
  • Michael Todd
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University, West CampusPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Anthropology, New Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesNew Mexico
  3. 3.Prevention Research CenterBerkeleyCalifornia

Personalised recommendations