There may be more to sex than you think. Not only can it make you feel good physically, it can lift your spirits. In fact, it can give your life meaning, says a team of psychologists from George Mason University. They published a paper in Emotion that shows how sex one day will cause a greater sense of meaning in life and a more positive mood the next day. 

The scientists Todd Kashdan and his colleagues undertook this three-week diary study because they felt thatin theoretical models of well-being, sex is rarely discussed and in many seminal articles, ignored.”

Their study involved 152 college students (including 116 women) and examined the relationship between sex frequency and quality with moods and overall well-being. 63% of the subjects were in monogamous relationships. The participants had to keep a nightly diary over 21 days where they wrote down their moods, if life felt meaningful, and whether they had sex since the last entry. The scientists also wanted to know whether the sex was good and intimate.

What did they find?

“If an individual gains sexual access to a romantic partner, this should raise momentary affect … and increase one’s sense of self-worth or meaning in life,” concluded the scientists.

In another interesting outcome, the research showed that to have sex increase a sense of well-being the participants had to be in more intimate relationships. Intimacy was a greater predictor of the positive afterglow, while “simply being in a committed relationship is insufficient to derive benefits from pleasurable activities,” wrote the team.

The limitations of the study lie in its reliance on college students. The sexual experiences and after-effects of older people need to be investigated further.

Check out the new paper, somewhat joyfully titled “Sexuality leads to boosts in mood and meaning in life with no evidence for the reverse direction” here.