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Healthy Men (But Not Women) Have Better Sex and Happier Relationships

As if you needed one more reason to feel guilty for couch-surfing when you should be kick-boxing, a recent study1 on long-term relationships indicates that men in excellent or good health have better sex than their flabbier or sickly peers. The good news doesn’t stop there: healthier dudes are nearly twice as likely to report relationship happiness outside the bedroom as well.

The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, surveyed 500 men ages 40-70 years old, and their spouses or girlfriends, in five different countries: Germany, Spain, the US, Japan, and Brazil. On average, couples had been together for 25 years and 90% had children. Through this global lens the researchers, led by Julia Heiman of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, concluded that good health predicted sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness for men, but not for women.

What exactly did they find? 72% of the men in the sample reported having excellent or good health. This single factor (i.e., superior health), increased a man’s chances of having a happy relationship and a satisfying sex life by more than 160% compared to the schmucks with fair or poor health.

Other factors, including longer relationships, lots of cuddling, good sexual functioning, and getting enough sex in the last month, also predicted relationship happiness and sexual satisfaction for men.

You might be thinking “well, duh, good health and good sex seem related in some obvious ways.” Seemingly so, Sherlock, except that things weren’t just going well in bed for the healthy men; they also had happier relationships, which isn’t necessarily intuitive. Just look at Hollywood: aswarm with washboard abs and washed-up marriages.

Also, for the women in these five countries good health didn’t predict either better sex or happier relationships. Female sexual satisfaction was predicted by only two factors: physical intimacy (cuddling and caressing) and current sexual functioning (the frequency of sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasm over the prior 4 weeks).

In contrast to the rather nuanced male landscape, only one factor predicted female relationship happiness: current sexual functioning. Among all other variables in the study, this single predictor increased a woman’s odds of a happy marriage or partnership by nearly 150%. To break it down even further, women who reported “excellent” sexual functioning (the highest of four categories) had a 90% chance of reporting relationship happiness, compared to only a 68% chance of happiness for women at the lowest level of sexual functioning.

Let’s just let that resonate for a moment. Research on a thousand people from around the world suggests that for guys, long-term relationship happiness stems from good health and a constellation of other factors. For women, it really just hinges on good sex.

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1Heiman, J. R., Long, J. S., Smith, S. N., Fisher, W. A., Sand, M. S., & Rosen, R. C. (2011). Sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness in midlife and older couples in five countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 741-753.

Melissa Schneider - Science Of Relationships articlesWebsite
Melissa is a licensed Dating and Relationships Counselor and the Co-Founder of LuvWise.com. Follow her blog or connect on Twitter. Take her free relationship test or work with her to get over that breakup and learn how to build your own great relationship, right from the very first date-- find out how.

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Reader Comments (1)

Ah-ha! Bless you Melissa! Regarding men, you've articulated the "other shoe" that *should* drop, but doesn't, when pro-marriage people tout an assertion along the lines of "See men? Being married married makes you healthier and you'll live longer, too. That facts prove it!"

I'm not pro- or anti-marriage, but I *do* know how to read data. The facts, limited as they may be, *might* show that marriage improves a man's health, but also *might* show that a healthy man facilitates a better marriage. (Or relationship. Or employee. Or parent. Or pet owner. Or reader comments, etc. Haha. ;-)

To health!

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTarzanWannaBe
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