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

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Complete information can be obtained from the corresponding author.

  2. 2.

    When outcomes were dichotomous, we used the GLIMMIX macro (under PROC MIXED) specifying binomial-distributed errors and a logit link. Models were first estimated with random Level 1 slopes, and if random components were non-significant or unestimable, re-estimated with slopes fixed.

  3. 3.

    Complete results, including parameter estimates and standard errors for all models, can be obtained from the corresponding author.

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Acknowledgments

This project was supported by an internal grant from the College of Arts and Sciences at New Mexico State University. Data analysis and manuscript preparation were additionally supported by the National Science Foundation (BCS 0129922) and the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

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Correspondence to Mary H. Burleson.

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Burleson, M.H., Trevathan, W.R. & Todd, M. 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. Arch Sex Behav 36, 357–368 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-006-9071-1

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Keywords

  • Sexual behavior
  • Mood
  • Mid-aged women
  • Physical affection
  • Daily diary