Social Indicators Research

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 115–135 | Cite as

Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness: How Other People’s Sex Lives are Related to our Sense of Well-Being

  • Tim WadsworthEmail author


A growing literature suggests that income, marriage, friendship, sex, and a variety of other factors influence self-reported happiness. Why these characteristics matter has been less examined. Scholars have recently demonstrated that part of the effect of income is relative. More income makes people happier, in part, because it sets them above their peers. Until now, the role of relative comparison in the study of happiness has been limited to income. The current work extends this focus to another activity—sex. Using GSS data, I examine how respondents’ frequency of sex, as well as the average sexual frequency of their cohort, influences their happiness. The findings suggest that happiness is positively correlated with their own sexual frequency, but inversely correlated with the sexual frequency of others.


Happiness Subjective well-being Sex Reference groups Social comparison 



I thank Jerald Herting, Stefanie Mollborn and Fred Pampel for helpful comments on earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUCB327, University of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA

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