Goodluz/Shutterstock
Source: Goodluz/Shutterstock

If you haven’t read the latest research about the sexual habits of American marrieds and singles, you are probably among the majority of people who have the belief that singles are having a lot more sex than individuals who are married.

Well, guess what? They’re not.

One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject, released in 2010 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, compiled statistics on the sexual attitudes and habits of 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94. Their study revealed that less than five percent of singles between the ages of 25 and 59 have sex two-to-three times a week, while a quarter of married people do—five times the rate. Also, while 61 percent of singles reported that they hadn’t had sex within the past year, only 18 percent of married people said the same.

The belief that singles have more and better sex than marrieds has become a cultural myth that researchers and sociologists are proving to be false through hard evidence. The reality of Americans' sex lives does not necessarily match the picture Hollywood paints. The prevailing view has long been that once you’re married, sex gets routine and boring, and because it’s no longer exciting, the frequency falls off. The reality is that for the majority of singles, sex tends to be sporadic or infrequent, if not non-existent. Of course there are singles who are experiencing more abundant and pleasurable sexual activity than they ever did, or would, in a marriage, but they are the minority.

And speaking of quality, having an abundant and pleasurable sex life (while married or not) not only feels good, but it’s good for you, too. University of Chicago gerontologist Michael Roizen is an expert in the field of sex and longevity whose work has revealed a number of profound health benefits that sexually active adults experience throughout life. For example, if you have sex twice a week you may experience the equivalent of being two years younger than your chronological age, as well as benefiting from a significant enhancement in the health and efficiency of the heart, respiratory system, and maintaining muscle strength. (If you have satisfying sex once a day, you may experience an eight-year age differentiation.)

A 2004 a study conducted at Dartmouth by David Blachflower in conjunction with Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwich in England, drew on a sample of 16,000 people, and found that sex enters so strongly and positively in happiness equations that they estimated that increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by adding an additional $50,000 in yearly income for the average American. The happiest people, they claim, tend to be  those having the most sex.

Another study, from Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland and published in The British Medical Journal, studied 1,000 married men over a 10-year period, finding that long-married men live up to five years longer than unmarried counterparts, in part because sex delivers a natural high in the form of the neurohypophysical "feel-good" hormone, oxytocin, producing a feeling of tranquility and happiness, and lowering blood pressure, which also provides protection against heart attacks and strokes. The team's research showed that those who had sex three times a week or more cut their risk for heart attack and stroke by 50%.

Research by Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz and Stone (2004) found, among a sample of 1,000 employed women, that sex was rated as the activity that produces the single largest amount of happiness.

So why are the marrieds having so much more sex than the singles?

  • Convenience. If you're married, of course, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy looking for, finding, and doing the groundwork for a relationship (although you do need to maintain a healthy and happy relationship).
  • Cues. Married couples have usually worked out an elaborate set of verbal and non-verbal cues that are easily read. A single wink while sharing dinner can speak volumes. Sometimes a gesture as simple as a touch or a smile can be enough to extend an invitation. Fro many couples, a single word or sentence can be sufficient.
  • Safety. When you’re single, STDs are a persistent concern. What a relief it is to get past the stage of awkward conversations—there’s great peace of mind in knowing that there’s much less to worry about.
  • Freedom from fear of rejection. Being married doesn’t guarantee that one's sexual overtures will never be rejected, naturally, but the anxiety that generally accompanies new relationships in the sexual arena is very different and more complex than the feelings that arise when a spouse isn’t “in the mood."
  • Greater freedom to risk and experiment. Nearly everyone has sexual fantasies, and sharing the details can be intensely erotic and pleasurable. When trust has been established and deepened through experience together, there is a much greater inclination to share some of the more intimate aspects of our secret desires.
  • Emotional intimacy as great foreplay. If married couples have built trust and become adept at the fine art of emotional intimacy, that combination is a winning jackpot for a strong and healthy sex life.

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