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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


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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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Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368
DOI 10.1007/s10508-006-9071-1
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
Mary H. Burleson ·Wenda R. Trevathan ·
Michael Todd
Received: 14 September 2005 / Revised: 20 February 2006 / Accepted: 1 May 2006 / Published online: 16 November 2006
Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006
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, stress-
ful events, and mood ratings every morning for 36 weeks.
Using multilevel modeling, we determined that physical af-
fection or sexual behavior with a partner on one day signifi-
cantly 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 ac-
tivity 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.
M. H. Burleson ()
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences,
Arizona State University, West Campus,
4701 W. Thunderbird Rd., Phoenix, Arizona 85069-7100
W. R. Treva tha n
Department of Sociology and Anthropology,
New Mexico State University,
Las Cruces, New Mexico
M. Todd
Prevention Research Center,
Berkeley, California
Keywords Sexual behavior .Mood .Mid-aged women .
Physical affection .Daily diary
Although conventional wisdom holds that a satisfactory sex-
ual interaction will improve mood, little empirical evidence
exists to support this assumption. Surprisingly few studies
have investigated relations between sexual activity or physi-
cal intimacy and affect, and most address the issue of whether
mood (or mood disorder) affects sexual desire or arousal. To
our knowledge, none have asked whether sexual activity or
physical affection alters affective state or perceived stress on
a daily basis. The current study addresses these questions us-
ing daily diary methodology in a sample of mid-aged women.
The idea that sex and affect are related is not new. Almost
50 years ago, Wolpe (1958) postulated that sexual arousal
and anxiety were mutually inhibitory. Mood disorders, in-
cluding depression (Cyranowski et al., 2004; Kennedy,
Dickens, Eisfeld, & Bagby, 1999) and anxiety (Bodinger
et al., 2002), are linked to changes in sexual interest and
arousal. A rewarding sex life is considered an important con-
tributor to life satisfaction (Apt, Hurlbert, Pierce, & White,
1996), which in turn correlates with positive mood (Suh,
Diener, Oishi, & Triandis, 1998). Indeed, a recent panel
study of over 15,000 randomly selected adults showed that
amount of sexual activity was strongly positively related to
overall happiness (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004). Many
models of sexual behavior, even in rodents, assume that
sex causes positive affect (Agmo, 1999). Moreover, there
are physiological reasons to expect sex or physical affec-
tion to influence emotions and stress. For example, orgasm
causes oxytocin release (Blaicher et al., 1999; Carmichael
et al., 1987), which is associated with stress relief and
positive social interactions in some contexts (Heinrichs,
358 Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368
Baumgartner, Kirschbaum, & Ehlert, 2003; Uvnas-Moberg,
Sexual function is multifaceted, and mood may influence
its various aspects (e.g., desire vs. arousal) in different ways.
Most non-clinical studies of these effects are of two main
types: laboratory studies with experimentally manipulated
mood and surveys or other studies where individuals describe
their usual sexual interest or response when they experience
particular moods or affective states.
Experimental studies suggest anger induction can reduce
sexual arousal in sexually functional men (Bozman & Beck,
1991); both anger and anxiety lead to lower reported sexual
desire in sexually functional men and women (Beck & Boz-
man, 1995; Bozman & Beck, 1991). On the other hand, in-
ducing anxiety before or during erotic stimulation enhances
sexual arousal in sexually functional men (Barlow, Sakheim,
& Beck, 1983; Wolchik et al., 1980) and women (Hoon,
Wincze, & Hoon, 1977; Palace & Gorzalka, 1990). Effects
of elated/happy and depressed/sad mood have also been in-
vestigated experimentally. Laan, Everaerd, van Berlo, and
Rijs (1995) and Meisler and Carey (1991) found induced
positive mood did not affect subsequent sexual arousal in
women, although it attenuated negative emotions elicited by
an erotic film. Similarly, Meisler and Carey (1991) found
no effect of elation on arousal or response in adult men;
depressed mood delayed subjective sexual arousal but did
not affect genital arousal. In contrast, Mitchell, DiBartolo,
Brown, and Barlow (1998) found induced elated mood facil-
itated both subjective and genital arousal, whereas induced
depressed mood reduced genital arousal.
As in experimental studies, the results from correlational
research suggest complex effects of affect on sexual func-
tioning. In a very large retrospective study of their previous
menstrual cycles, women’s sexual interest, feelings, and en-
joyment were strongly related to levels of positive mood
and energy (Warner & Bancroft, 1988). In other studies, gay
(Bancroft, Janssen, Strong, & Vukadinovic, 2003) and het-
erosexual (Bancroft et al., 2003) men were asked to describe
how they typically behaved sexually when depressed or anx-
ious. Most reported no change in sexual interest or erectile
response. For depressed mood, those who reported a change
in desire or response largely experienced reductions (only
9% of heterosexual and 16% of gay men reported an in-
crease). For anxiety, those who reported a change in desire
or response were more evenly distributed between increase
and decrease in sexual interest or performance. More than
half the participants in the heterosexual study reported occa-
sional masturbation to regulate mood, especially to reduce
anxiety and stress. Similarly, in a focus group study with
both lesbian and heterosexual participants, women most of-
ten reported that depressed mood and anger had a negative
effect on sexuality. Several stated that anxiety sometimes
added to arousal, and self-stimulation was occasionally used
to reduce anxiety or stress (Graham, Sanders, Milhausen, &
McBride, 2004).
One study of mood-sex relationships in adolescent
females used daily diary methodology. Participants prospec-
tively recorded mood and occurrence of sexual intercourse
(along with other variables) for an average of 194 days.
Multivariate results indicated that negative mood decreased
the likelihood of having intercourse on the same day
(Fortenberry et al., 2005); however, the potential effects of
prior-day intercourse on mood were not reported.
Finally, several laboratory studies have examined affec-
tive responses after sexual stimulus presentation. One study
of adult men found high genital arousal during an erotic film
predicted higher elation and lower depression ratings after-
ward, independent of mood beforehand (Meisler & Carey,
1991). Heiman (1980) found women’s sexual arousal during
erotic audiotapes and films was positively correlated with
positive affective ratings of those stimuli. Three studies of
women (Hackbert & Heiman, 2002; Laan, Everaerd, van
Bellen, & Hanewald, 1994; Senn & Desmarais, 2004)re-
ported increased positive affect or decreased negative affect
after viewing erotic material. However, some of the affect
measures included self-ratings such as “sexy” and “easy to
arouse” along with nonsexual descriptors, making their in-
terpretation somewhat difficult.
Women’s sexuality changes throughout life, and there is
evidence to suggest that sexual interest and frequency often
decline with the natural menopause transition (Avis, Stel-
lato, Crawford, Johannes, & Longcope, 2000; Dennerstein,
Dudley, & Burger, 2001). To our knowledge, however, the
only study to longitudinally monitor both sexual functioning
and mood for a period of time during the menopause tran-
sition used annual interviews (e.g., Dennerstein, Randolph,
Taffe, Dudley, & Burger, 2002). Therefore, nothing is known
about the relations between daily sexual activity and mood
or stress in this age group.
Similarly, very little is known about how social relation-
ships and personal characteristics may influence the relations
between sex and mood. A previous study of adult women
found that sexual orientation and partner availability (i.e.,
living with one’s sexual partner) were related to amount of
sexual activity (Burleson, Trevathan, & Gregory, 2002), and
longer relationship duration is associated with lower sex-
ual frequency (Call, Sprecher, & Schwartz, 1995). Given
that these three characteristics have also been linked in some
studies with mood-related variables, such as global happiness
(Biernbaum & Ruscio, 2004), well being (Kurdek, 1991), or
depression (Thompson et al., 2005), we elected to explore
them as potential moderators of the relationships between
mood and sexual behavior.
In sum, most previous research suggests that negative
mood states, particularly depressed mood and hostility, are
likely to interfere with sexual functioning in some way, that
Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368 359
positive mood states may have the opposite effect, and that
sexual arousal may influence mood, at least in men. However,
all of the laboratory effects occurred within a very short time
frame, and the question remains as to whether these transi-
tory effects have discernible consequences in daily life. Only
one of the studies prospectively monitored sexual behavior
and mood on a daily basis, and this study was carried out
in adolescent girls. No study addressed directly the issue
of whether or how sexual interactions with others influence
moods. In the current study, we used daily diary methodol-
ogy to investigate temporal relations among sexual activity,
physical affection, mood, and stress in the daily lives of
mid-aged women, a group that has not been studied in this
context. In other words, we asked whether physical affection
or sexual activity predicted mood or stress on the following
day, and vice versa. We also asked whether sexual orien-
tation, partner availability, or relationship length moderated
these associations. Finally, we also tested whether physical
affection or sexual activity was related to mood or stress on
the same day.
Women were recruited nationally through advertisements in
women’s publications to participate in a large longitudinal
study of the menopause transition “as experienced in the
context of daily life events.” To ensure a sufficient number
of lesbian participants, we also advertised in the gay and les-
bian press. Women were eligible if they were aged 42 to 52,
were not pregnant, lactating, or postmenopausal, had not had
reproductive surgery, and were not taking estrogen or pro-
gesterone or using an IUD. Of the 113 who wrote to request
study materials, 52 returned no data, 3 returned fewer than
4 weeks, and data from one woman were judged unreliable,
leaving 58 participants. Participants were not paid.
Mean age at entry was 47.6 years (SD =2.2) and mean
BMI at entry was 23.28 (SD =3.5). Forty-four (75.9%) par-
ticipants described themselves as exclusively heterosexual,
whereas 14 (24.1%) described themselves as exclusively or
primarily lesbian. Forty (69%) were married or cohabiting,
and 18 (31%) were not living with their sexual partners. For
those in a relationship (n=47), the mean duration of that
relationship was 15.6 years (SD =8.3, range 0.4–31 yrs).
Thirty-nine (67%) were premenopausal (i.e., showed little
or no variation in their menstrual cycles) and 19 (33%)
were perimenopausal (i.e., had irregular cycles) at study
entry. Six (10.3%) participants had less than a baccalau-
reate degree, six (10.3%) had earned a baccalaureate de-
gree, and 46 (79.3%) had post-graduate education. Fifty-two
(89.7%) were employed outside the home, and the mean
number of years employed was 21.1 (SD =6.3). Finally,
35 (60.3%) reported annual family incomes of more than
Although the current study used only the first 36 weeks of
collected data (see below), women were recruited to partic-
ipate for five years or until one year without menstruation.
Each was mailed detailed instructions, an initial question-
naire, sufficient Daily Datasheets for 252 days (36 weeks)
of recording, a prepaid postcard for requesting a new packet
when she began recording the final 42 days, and a stamped
envelope for returning completed data sheets after 36 weeks.
Subsequent packets included only the Daily Datasheets for
252 days, the prepaid postcard, and the prepaid manila enve-
lope. At entry, participants recorded demographic and per-
sonal history data as described above. From then on, they
completed a datasheet upon arising each morning, covering
the previous 24-hour period. Morning data recording was
selected to maximize recollection of sexual activities.
To enhance accurate recording of physical and sexual in-
timacy variables, we included highly detailed instructions
regarding how these items should be interpreted. They were
reported as occurrence or non-occurrence since last data
recording and were defined as follows. Physical affection:
intimate physical contact not necessarily associated with sex;
breast stimulation: sexually-related breast stimulation by self
or other; genital stimulation: any form of genital stimulation
by another person, with or without intercourse; intercourse:
sexual intercourse with a man with intravaginal ejaculation
and no condom. We derived two additional variables: orgasm
with partner (orgasm in the context of genital stimulation or
intercourse, as defined above) and orgasm without partner
(orgasm without genital stimulation by another person or
The stress variable was occurrence of a stress event (de-
fined as any event that upset the participant), and thus incor-
porated perceived stress. Mood items included seven posi-
tive (enthusiastic, determined, alert, happy, cheerful, proud,
and contented) and eight negative (anxious, depressed, dis-
tressed, nervous, hostile, ashamed, guilty, and irritable) ad-
jectives, rated from 1 (experienced slightly or not at all)to
5(experienced extremely). Composite positive and negative
scores were derived for each day. In addition, to facilitate
comparisons with previous studies of mood effects on sex-
ual functioning, we created separate composite scores called
anxiety (anxious, distressed, nervous), and hostility (hos-
tile, irritable), and analyzed the depressed mood score as a
single-item indicator.
360 Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368
Data analysis
Missing data
For the entire study, durations of data recording ranged from
116 to over 2500 days. Nine participants did not fully com-
plete the first packet of questionnaires, and eight dropped
out after completing the first packet. Thus, to maximize the
number of participants included in the current analyses, we
chose to use the first 252 days (36 weeks) of data. Of the 58
participants included, 49 participated for at least 252 days,
and the remaining nine ranged from 116 to 250 days, for a
total of 14,218 possible person-days of data, and an aver-
age duration of 35 weeks.1For various reasons (e.g., illness,
travel, “forgot,” and unknown), participants failed to record
any data on 276 of these person-days, yielding a panelwise
missingness rate of 1.94%.
As noted above, nine participants contributed less than
252 days of data. They withdrew from the study for vari-
ous reasons, including their lives becoming too complicated
to continue participation (e.g., family illness; 2 participants)
and vacation periods interrupting their daily recordings so
extensively that they did not continue (2 participants). Five
participants stopped recording for no stated reason and re-
turned to us the records that they had completed.
Analysis plan
The data were intrinsically hierarchical with multiple daily
observations (Level 1) nested within participants (Level 2),
so we used multilevel modeling to take full advantage of the
data structure. We tested same-day relations using pooled
within-person correlations computed in Mplus 2.13 (Muthen
& Muthen, 1998) and prospective associations (predicting
outcomes from previous day’s predictor scores) via multi-
level regression models in SAS PROC MIXED under SAS
9.1.2The latter analyses allowed simultaneous estimation of
within-person relations between variables measured daily,
their average magnitude (and sign) across all participants,
and the effects of several potential moderators. To account
for cyclical dependencies and serial autocorrelation, we in-
cluded dummy predictor variables coding for month and
day of week and an AR(1) parameter in the lagged models
(West & Hepworth, 1991). Two sets of prospective mod-
els were specified, with sexual behavior or physical con-
tact predicting next-day mood or stress, and with mood or
1Complete information can be obtained from the corresponding author.
2When 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.
stress predicting next-day physical contact or sexual behavior
(see Appendix for example equations). Level 1 (daily-level)
predictor variables were person mean-centered and Level 2
(person-level) variables were grand mean-centered. In gen-
eral, centering helps to minimize multicollinearity among
interaction terms and their constituent “main effect” terms
(Aiken & West, 1991), and person-mean centering of daily
predictors facilitates interpretation of Level 1 coefficients as
purely within-person effects. However, one consequence of
person-mean centering of the Level 1 predictors is the re-
moval of person-level variation in the predictors, thus leav-
ing person-level covariation between daily-level predictors
and the outcomes unmodeled (Hofmann & Gavin, 1998).
Accordingly, we added grand-mean centered person-level
means on daily-level predictor variables as person-level pre-
dictors in our models. We also included sexual orientation,
proportion of study days cohabiting with sexual partner, and
duration of current sexual relationship, along with their in-
teractions with the primary variables, as predictors in the ini-
tial prospective models. In keeping with recommendations
for model building in the absence of strong theory-based
predictions, non-significant interaction terms were trimmed
from subsequent models (Aiken & West, 1991). Significant
interactions were probed by examining simple slopes at se-
lected values of the moderator variables (i.e., M±1SD for
relationship duration; 0 and 1 for cohabitation and sexual
orientation), using methods described in Bauer and Curran
(2005). An alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests.
Preliminary analyses, descriptive statistics,
and Pearson correlations
Preliminary analyses were conducted controlling for month,
day of week, and serial autocorrelation. Positive mood was a
strong negative same-day predictor of overall negative mood,
hostility, depressed mood, and anxiety. Therefore, we in-
cluded positive mood as a predictor in all lagged models
with these four predictors. Older age predicted fewer stres-
sors and lower levels of all of the negative affective states,
so age was included in all subsequent models.
Mean daily frequencies of physical intimacy, sexual be-
havior, and stress variables, mean daily averages for the mood
variables, percentage of participants with the minimum pos-
sible values for these variables (e.g., zero frequency of in-
tercourse for the 36-wk data collection period), and Pearson
correlations across participants are shown in Table 1.Only
two significant correlations were found between physical
contact and mood variables: physical affection was posi-
tively related to positive mood, and breast stimulation was
negatively related to hostility.
Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368 361
Table 1 Means, standard deviations, percentage of sample with minimum value, and Pearson correlations for overall average daily frequencies
of physical affection, sexual activity, and stress, and overall daily means of mood
Vari able MSD%min1 234567891011
1. Physical affectiona.43 .36 6.9
2. Breast stimulationa.15 .18 17.2 .54∗∗∗
3. Genital stimulationa.12 .14 12.1 .57∗∗∗ .83∗∗∗
4. Intercoursea,b.11 .12 15.9 .47∗∗ .68∗∗∗ .84∗∗∗
5. Orgasm with partnera.10 .11 17.2 .58∗∗∗ .78∗∗∗ .95∗∗∗ .80∗∗∗
6. Orgasm no partnera.06 .09 25.9 .20 .06 .17 .22 .16 —
7. Positive moodc2.84 .74 0.0 .29.24 .22 .03 .21 .00 —
8. Negative moodc1.43 .33 0.0 .07 .20 .16 .15 .17 .12 .14 —
9. Hostilityc1.33 .31 0.0 .19 .26.22 .21 .19 .17 .19 .89∗∗∗
10. Depressed affectc1.46 .34 1.8 .02 .26 .17 .17 .16 .21 .26 .81∗∗∗ .65∗∗∗
11. Anxietyc1.61 .43 0.0 .05 .16 .11 .06 .12 .05 .13 .96∗∗∗ .79∗∗∗ .80∗∗∗
12. Stress occurrencea.16 .14 3.4 .08 .01 .08 .10 .04 .07 .01 .35∗∗ .23 .29.39∗∗
Note.N=58 for variables 1–6 and 12, N=55 for variables 7–11.
aValues could range from 0.00 (never occurred) to 1.00 (occurred at least one time every day of measurement period).
bStatistics involving intercourse were estimated excluding participants who self-identified as lesbian (N=44 for variables 1–6, and 12, N=41
for variables 7–11).
cValues could range from 1.00 to 5.00.
p<.05 ∗∗p<.01 ∗∗∗p<.001.
Same-day associations between daily mood or stress
and daily physical contact or sexual behavior
Pooled within-person correlations between physical contact
or sexual behavior and mood or stress reported concurrently
are shown in Table 2. Breast stimulation, genital stimulation,
and orgasm with partner were positively related to positive
mood and negatively related to all negative moods and stress.
Physical affection and intercourse showed very similar pat-
terns, except physical affection was unrelated to stress and
intercourse was unrelated to depressed mood. Orgasm with-
out partner was significantly related only to stress, and the
relation was negative.
Predicting next-day mood and stress from daily physical
contact and sexual behavior
Figure 1illustrates significant first order effects and their un-
standardized parameter estimates (γ) from the prospective
multilevel regression analyses.3In general, physical affec-
tion and sexual behavior were consistently associated with
reduced negative states, fewer stressors, and/or increased
positive mood the following day.
Breast stimulation, genital stimulation, and orgasm with
a partner predicted higher next-day positive mood. However,
there were significant interactions with sexual orientation
for the effects of genital stimulation (γ=.08, p<.01) and
orgasm with a partner (γ=.09, p<.01) on positive mood.
3Complete results, including parameter estimates and standard errors
for all models, can be obtained from the corresponding author.
Probing of these interactions revealed that the relations be-
tween the sex variables and positive mood were significant
for the lesbian participants (ωs=.10, .10, both ps<.001,
where ωrepresents the parameter estimate for the simple
slope), but not for the heterosexual participants (ωs=.01,
.01, both ns).
Physical affection, breast stimulation, genital stimulation,
orgasm with a partner, and intercourse were all significant
predictors of lower overall negative mood and lower anxiety
on the following day. Daily physical affection, genital stimu-
lation, and partnered orgasm predicted lower next-day stress.
However, significant interactions with relationship duration
qualified the effects of genital stimulation (γ=.02, p<.01)
and orgasm with a partner (γ=.02, p<.01) on stress. In-
teraction probes revealed that both of these negative effects
were significant for women with relatively short-duration
relationships (respectively, ωsat2.5yrs=−.52, and .46,
both ps<.01, ωsat12yrs=−.29, and .23, both ps<.01),
but not for those with relatively long-duration relationships
(ωs at 21.5 yrs =−.06 and .01, both ns).
All of the significant associations involved behavior with
other individuals and improvements in mood except that
orgasm without partner predicted higher next-day negative
mood and anxiety. Next-day hostility and depressed mood
were associated with no predictors. Significant random ef-
fects noted in Fig. 1indicate instances where there was sig-
nificant variation between participants in the nature of the
relation between predictor and outcome variable. For ex-
ample, for genital stimulation predicting next-day negative
mood, the slopes ranged from 0.11 to 0.07.
362 Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368
Table 2 Pooled within-person correlations between physical affection or sexual behavior and same-day mood or stress
Positive mood Negative mood Hostility Depressed mood Anxiety Stress occurrence
Physical affection .09∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .03∗∗ .05∗∗∗ .01
Breast stimulation .08∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .03∗∗ .02.05∗∗∗ .02
Genital stimulation .09∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .03∗∗ .05∗∗∗ .03∗∗∗
Intercoursea.07∗∗∗ .03∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .01 .03∗∗ .02
Orgasm with partner .09∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .03∗∗ .04∗∗∗ .04∗∗∗
Orgasm no partner .02 .01 .01 .02 .00 .03∗∗∗
Note.Ns (number of person-days) for these analyses ranged from 13,011 to 13,919.
aCorrelations involving intercourse were estimated without participants who self-identified as lesbian.
p<.05; ∗∗p<.01; ∗∗∗p<.001.
Predicting next-day physical affection and sexual
behavior from daily mood and stress
As shown in Fig. 1, positive mood was the only significant
first order predictor of next-day physical affection or sexual
behavior. Regardless of which negative mood variable was
in the model, higher positive mood predicted more next-day
physical affection, breast stimulation, genital stimulation,
and orgasms with a partner and fewer orgasms without a
partner. However, for the physical affection outcome, there
were significant interactions between positive mood and sex-
ual orientation in all of these models (γs=.45 to .46, all
ps<.0001). Probing of these interactions revealed that all
of them were of the same form, such that the positive relation-
ship between positive mood and next-day physical affection
was significant for the lesbian participants (ωs=.46 to .50,
all ps<.0001), but not for the heterosexual participants
(ωs=.01 to 05, all ns). Interactions between positive mood
and sexual orientation did not approach significance for any
other sexual behavior outcome.
No negative mood variable or stress was significantly
related across all participants to any next-day physical
Fig. 1 Summary of significant conditional (main) effects and unstan-
dardized parameter estimates from prospective analyses. Coefficient
for positive mood predicting next-day affection or sex is average of co-
efficients for four separate models, each including positive mood along
with one of the negative mood indicators. Subscript r indicates random
effect. Subscript a indicates simple slope significant only for lesbian
participants; subscript b indicates effect stronger for shorter duration
relationships. See text for description. p<.05, ∗∗p<.01, ∗∗∗p<.001
Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368 363
contact or sexual behavior variable. However, there were
three interactions involving negative mood variables. Sexual
orientation interacted significantly with anxiety (γ=−.29,
p<.05), such that higher anxiety predicted fewer orgasms
without a partner for heterosexual (ω=−.13, p<.05),
but not lesbian (ω=.15, ns), women. It also interacted
significantly with stressor occurrence (γ=−.53, p<.01)
such that higher stress predicted less breast stimulation in
lesbian (ω=−.50, p<.01), but not heterosexual (ω=.03,
ns), women. Finally, there was a significant interaction
between depressed mood and cohabitation (γ=.45,
p<.05), such that higher depressed mood predicted more
next-day intercourse for participants who lived with their
partners (ω=.13, p<.05), but not for those who did not
live with their partners (ω=−.33, ns).
Straightforward effect size measures paralleling those for
traditional “single-level” multiple regression models have
yet to be developed for multilevel regression approaches.
However, based on the rather small same-day within-person
correlations reported here, we can assume that the prospec-
tive effects were similarly small.
First order effects of moderators4
Models with mood or stress outcomes
In all models with affection or partnered sex as predictors,
lesbian participants reported less hostility than heterosexual
participants (γs=−.22 to .25, all ps<.05). In addition,
they reported less overall negative mood in the breast stimu-
lation and genital stimulation models (γs=−.28 and .24,
both ps<.05). Somewhat surprisingly, living with one’s
sexual partner predicted higher average levels of negative
affective states. In models with physical affection or genital
stimulation as predictors, cohabitation predicted higher
overall negative mood (γs=.43 and .30, both ps<.05);
and in models with breast stimulation, genital stimulation,
partnered orgasm, orgasm without a partner, or intercourse,
it predicted higher depressed mood (γs=.29 to .56, all ps<
.05). In general, however, as the duration of the relationship
increased, average levels of negative affect decreased. In
models with physical affection, breast stimulation, genital
4In addition to the effects that were the focus of the study, the lagged
models included grand mean-centered person means of the daily pre-
dictors. Inclusion of these variables was necessary in order to ensure
the correct apportionment of variance in outcomes and thus allow the
correct interpretation of parameter estimates associated with the vari-
ables of primary interest. Some of these between-subject variables were
statistically significant predictors. However, given that the current study
focuses on the relations between daily physical contact and daily mood
or stress, and that the sample size was 58 or fewer for these between-
subject effects, we elected not to present them in this report. Complete
information about these findings can be obtained from the authors.
stimulation, or intercourse as predictors, longer duration
of the relationship predicted lower overall negative mood
(γs=−.01 to .02, all ps<.05) and in the model with
physical affection, it predicted lower hostility (γs=−.01,
p<.05). Older age predicted higher positive mood (γs=.26
to .37, all ps<.0001), lower anxiety (γs=−.05 to -.06,
all ps<.05), and fewer stressor occurrences in all models
(γs=−.25 to .33, all ps<.001).
Models with affection or sexual behavior outcomes
In all models with positive mood and one of the negative
affect variables as predictors, living with one’s sexual
partner predicted more physical affection (γs=3.02 to 3.12,
all ps<.001) and fewer unpartnered orgasms (γs=−1.96
to 2.21, all ps<.01). In models including positive mood
with hostility or anxiety, or stressor occurrence, it predicted
more partnered orgasms (γs=1.43 to 1.72, all ps<.05).
Older age was associated with lower average frequency of
breast stimulation (γs=−.23 to .35, all ps<.05) and
genital stimulation (γs=−.19 to .34, all ps<.05) in all
models. Neither sexual orientation nor relationship duration
was associated with average frequency of physical affection
or any of the sexual behaviors.
In the current study, mid-aged women provided detailed daily
records of sexual behavior, physical affection, mood, and
stress for an average duration of 35 weeks. To our knowl-
edge, this study is the first to evaluate relations between
physical contact or sexual behavior and mood or stress in
adults on a prospective daily basis. Two advantages of our
study over most previous work are enhanced ecological va-
lidity compared to laboratory studies and collection of daily
rather than long-term retrospective reports. This design al-
lowed us to examine the extent to which occasions of relative
increases or decreases in sexual behavior or physical affec-
tion were temporally associated with occasions of relatively
more intense mood or stress within individual participants.
We also evaluated potential causal effects by testing lagged
relations between variables. The results were consistent with
bidirectional causal relations in which dyadic sexual inter-
action and physical affection improved mood and reduced
stress, which in turn increased the likelihood of future sex
and physical intimacy. Sexual orientation, living with one’s
partner, and relationship duration moderated some of these
lagged daily effects.
Same-day relationships
With few exceptions, physical affection or sexual activ-
ity variables were positively related to same-day positive
364 Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368
mood and negatively related to same-day negative moods
and stress. These results are similar to the findings of Forten-
berry and colleagues (Fortenberry et al., 2005), in which
univariate analyses showed negative and positive mood were
negatively and positively related, respectively, to same-day
intercourse in adolescent women. Given that sex is an ef-
fective reinforcer in many species and can elicit positive
affective states in male and female rodents that persist af-
ter sexual behavior ends (Agmo & Berenfeld, 1990; Paredes
& Vazquez, 1999), perhaps these results are not surprising.
However, it is important to note that, whereas orgasm with
a partner was significantly related to all mood and stress
variables in the current study, orgasm without a partner was
related only to stress. For our participants, all orgasms were
not equal, at least in terms of their associations with mood
Because the variables were assessed concurrently, their
temporal relations to one another could not be established
and no causal pathway could be eliminated by these analyses.
We note, however, that surveys suggest most sexual interac-
tion between individuals occurs after retiring to bed and be-
fore arising (Dutton, 2003), whereas moods are experienced
throughout waking hours. With this in mind, it is arguably
more likely that these within-subject correlations reflect a
mood effect on same-day sexual behavior than vice-versa. If
true, this suggests positive moods may have promoted sexual
expression in our participants, whereas negative moods may
have discouraged it.
Does sex or physical affection influence mood
or experience of stress?
Affectionate physical contact or any of several forms of sex-
ual activity with another person (e.g., genital stimulation)
on a given day predicted reports of lower levels of negative
affective states and fewer stress reports the following day,
particularly for participants whose relationships were rela-
tively newer. Further, genital stimulation or orgasm with a
partner on a given day predicted more positive mood the
following day for lesbian participants. These prospective as-
sociations are consistent with the idea that physical affection
and partnered sexual activity may have improved partici-
pants’ mood and reduced perceived stress. Previous studies
have reported that anxiety or stress might serve to motivate
sexual interactions as a form of mood repair for some individ-
uals (Bancroft et al., 2003; Graham, Sanders, Milhausen, &
McBride, 2004). Although we have little evidence to support
this idea in our sample (the only predictive effects of stress
or anxiety on sexual behavior were negative and differed
according to sexual orientation), such interactions might ef-
fectively improve mood on a continuing basis, especially in
the earlier stages of a relationship.
In contrast, we found that orgasm without a partner was
actually associated with higher anxiety and negative mood
the following day. Thus, for our mid-aged female partici-
pants, social aspects of a dyadic relationship were important
for any mood-elevating effects of sexual activity; sensory as-
pects alone (or physiological changes accompanying them)
were insufficient. We speculate that unpartnered sexual re-
lations may have served to highlight what was missing in
our participants’ social lives, which in turn could have led
to lower mood on the following day. Alternatively, because
self-stimulation was viewed as socially unacceptable during
their formative years, some of our participants may have had
negative feelings associated with it.
Beneficial effects of social connectedness on stress
management and health are noted in many studies (House,
Landis, & Umberson, 1988), but the pathways through
which they occur are not fully explained (House, 2001).
Our results suggest they are mediated, at least partially,
through physical affection or sexual interactions (Carter,
1998; Uvnas-Moberg, 1997,1998). Those with effective
social support networks may experience more pleasing
physical contact in daily life, or a loving social relation-
ship may bring about more, or at least more satisfying,
sexual activity. Both could enhance mood and lower
If affection and sex do enhance mood and reduce stress,
what physiological mechanisms might mediate these effects?
Giving or receiving positive physical contact (e.g., touch,
massage) can influence cardiovascular and neuroendocrine
functioning to counteract some effects of stress (Moyer,
Rounds, & Hannum, 2004; Uvnas-Moberg, 1997). For ex-
ample, massage-like touch causes release of oxytocin in rats
(Lund et al., 2005) and sexual arousal and orgasm cause
enhanced release of oxytocin in human males and females
(Carmichael et al., 1987). Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that
promotes attachment, prosocial, and reproductive behav-
iors in many mammalian species, possibly including hu-
mans (Carter, 1998). Intranasally administered exogenous
oxytocin can reduce men’s anxiety and cortisol responses
to stress (Heinrichs et al., 2003), likely through its regula-
tory effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (Neu-
mann, Wigger, Torner, Holsboer, & Landgraf, 2000). In ad-
dition, greater oxytocin responses to laboratory stress were
associated with lower blood pressure (BP) before and after
the stressor and faster diastolic BP recovery (Light et al.,
2000). In rats, repeated oxytocin administration causes long-
term decreases in BP, suggesting potential oxytocin-related
stress-reducing effects of satisfying sexual activity could be
relatively long-lasting (Uvnas-Moberg, 1997).
Both lagged and concurrent relations reported here were
consistent with previous research suggesting that sexual
arousal leads to higher positive or lower negative mood
Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368 365
(Meisler & Carey, 1991) on a short-term basis. Indeed, our
results go further and indicate that mood-enhancing effects
of sexual behavior and physical affection may remain active
for at least an entire day and night.
Does mood or experience of stress influence occurrence
of sex or physical affection?
Increased positive mood predicted more next-day physical
affection for the lesbian participants. It also predicted higher
levels across participants of all partnered sexual behaviors
except for intercourse, but predicted fewer unpartnered or-
gasms. These results lend causal weight to prior reports
that women are more likely to express themselves sexu-
ally when experiencing a positive affective state (Sanders,
Warner, Backstrom, & Bancroft, 1983; Warner & Bancroft,
1988). It is important to note they do not mean that happier
individuals had more affection or sex. The results indicated
instead that when positive mood was higher than usual, par-
ticipants were more likely to be affectionate or engage in
partnered sexual activity (except intercourse) the next day.
Because of the strong interaction between sexual orientation
and positive mood in predicting next-day affection, along
with the absence of a significant relationship between posi-
tive mood and intercourse (which was estimated excluding
lesbian participants), we were concerned that all of the re-
lationships between positive mood and next-day sexual be-
havior might be due primarily to effects for the lesbian but
not the heterosexual participants. However, none of the other
orientation by mood interactions was significant. Thus, the
strength of the relations between positive mood and next-day
sexual behaviors did not differ by sexual orientation.
As noted above, intercourse was the only sexual activity
that was unrelated to women’s prior-day positive mood in the
current study. By definition, sexual intercourse occurs only
when a male partner maintains an erection long enough for
vaginal penetration, whereas the other partnered sexual activ-
ities we monitored do not have this requirement. Because of
this difference, we speculate that occurrence of intercourse
was more heavily influenced by men’s mood state, rather
than women’s.
In the current study, daily negative affect and stress gen-
erally were not related to affection or sexual behavior on the
following day. Thus, if negative moods or stress influenced
the occurrence of affectionate or sexual behaviors, most of
the effects did not carry over to the next day. One exception
to this involved the only significant lagged daily relationship
found for depressed mood as either predictor or outcome, and
the only case in which women’s mood predicted next-day in-
tercourse. Higher depressed mood predicted more next-day
intercourse for women who lived with their partners. Given
that induced depressed mood can reduce both subjective and
genital arousal (Meisler & Carey, 1991; Mitchell et al., 1998),
this result was somewhat unexpected, but may represent a
previously unreported form of mood-repair.
In previous research, the best-established causal effect of
mood on sexual arousal is the ability of anxiety to enhance
it. Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, and
experiments show that non-sex-related anxiety (Hoon
et al., 1977; Palace & Gorzalka, 1990), sex-related anxiety
(Barlow et al., 1983; Bozman & Beck, 1991), and even
sympathetic activation from exercise (Meston & Gorzalka,
1996) can all enhance sexual arousal. However, all of
these effects occurred within a very short time frame—any
influence of mood induction or sympathetic activation was
detected within the laboratory session. In the current study,
we measured mood and sexual behavior only once daily,
and did not assess arousal per se; thus, it is difficult to make
direct comparisons with our findings. However, our design
could potentially detect whether short-term mood effects
accumulated over time to influence actual occurrence of
sexual activity. For example, if anxiety intensified arousal
within each sexual episode, it might become associated with
enhanced pleasure and hence increase the likelihood of sex
occurring. Our results did not support that possibility. The
only lagged effect of higher anxiety was a negative effect
on orgasm without a partner, and the effect was limited to
heterosexual women. In our same-day analyses, we found all
negative mood indicators and stress, including anxiety, were
negatively related to affection and partnered sex variables.
Perhaps anxiety interfered with sexual desire before the
arousal stage, as reported by Bozman and Beck (1991).
Experimental studies of adults also suggest that anger and
depressed mood are likely to interfere with sexual arousal
(Bozman & Beck, 1991; Mitchell et al., 1998), but positive
mood is more likely to enhance it (Mitchell et al., 1998).
Our same-day results were consistent with these findings,
as were most of the lagged analyses showing positive mood
predicted more sexual behavior on the following day. That
is, if positive mood enhanced arousal in our participants, it
may have also enhanced sexual motivation, leading to more
sexual interactions.
As found in previous research (Burleson et al., 2002), part-
ner availability was positively related to frequency of part-
nered sexual behavior and negatively related to frequency
of unpartnered sexual behavior. However, sexual orientation
was unrelated to frequency of either partnered or unpart-
nered sexual behavior. Average age in the current study was
14 years older than in the previous study, which may help to
account for this difference in findings. In the current study,
older age was associated with less frequent breast and genital
stimulation, higher positive mood and lower anxiety ratings,
and fewer stressor occurrences. These findings fit well with
previous cross-sectional results showing less frequent sexual
activity (Leigh, Temple, & Trocki, 1993) and higher levels
of positive affect correlated with increasing age (Carstensen,
366 Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:357–368
Pasupathi, Mayr, & Nesselroade, 2000; Mroczek & Kolarz,
1998). Interestingly, living with one’s sexual partner pre-
dicted higher overall levels of negative affective states in the
current study. However, as the duration of the relationship
increased (controlling for age), average levels of negative
affect declined. Finally, the lesbian participants reported less
hostility and depression than the heterosexual participants.
Limitations and implications for future research
The current study has several limitations. Perhaps the most
consequential is the nature of our sample, which comprised
a relatively small group of mid-aged women with a limited
age range. As in many longitudinal daily studies, our par-
ticipants were very highly motivated. They were also more
educated and wealthier than average, and comprised a higher
than average proportion of lesbian women. Therefore, fur-
ther study is needed to determine whether the results we
found are borne out in the general population. Although we
report differences between lesbian and heterosexual women,
there were relatively few lesbian participants, so these find-
ings should be interpreted cautiously. In addition, although
many of the effects were highly significant, they were small.
The small effect sizes are not surprising, given that the data
were collected in a natural setting, within the context of mul-
tiple social and environmental influences, rather than in a
Measurement issues also deserve mention. Because the
study continued for several years, we reduced measurement
burden by using a short daily instrument with dichotomous
response formats where possible. Therefore, our sexual ac-
tivity and affection measures included no ratings of desire,
arousal, satisfaction, or other qualitative aspects. Nor did
we ask who initiated the encounter or gather data about any
interpersonal activities not listed on the daily datasheet. Sim-
ilarly, our stress measure asked only if a stressor occurred.
We did not obtain intensity ratings or inquire about content
or type of stressor. Approximately one third of the sample
had entered the menopause transition. Because we did not
measure hormones, any potential effects of changes in hor-
monal status were not detected. All of this information would
be useful to better understand relations among the variables
we measured.
To facilitate regular data collection, our participants
completed daily recordings immediately upon arising,
before the day’s activities had been initiated and distractions
could occur. Therefore, a sleep period occurred between
data recording and most moods, stressors, or incidences of
sexual activity or affection that were reported. Processes
that occur during sleep may influence memory (Benington
& Frank, 2003). In fact, Fahrenberg and colleagues (Fahren-
berg, Bruegner, Foerster, & Kaeppler, 1999) reported a bias
towards reporting more negative affect when moods through-
out a day were summarized in the evening or the following
morning, but the summary followed the same pattern of rela-
tive mood levels as the target day’s multiple ratings. Thus, as
relative ranks are more important than absolute levels in our
analyses, this potential bias may be relatively unproblematic.
With notable exceptions (Exton et al., 2001), much of
what is known about neuroendocrine changes during and
after sexual activity has been learned studying arousal and
orgasm in the laboratory, with no partner present. In all our
analyses, we found differences between effects or correlates
of partnered versus non-partnered sexual activities. If these
effects are mediated, even partially, by biochemical changes,
it follows that self-stimulated arousal and orgasms may be
physiologically different from those occurring with a partner.
This emphasizes the importance of studying sexuality in
a more realistic social context whenever possible (Senn &
Desmarais, 2004).
Future longitudinal field studies should make more fre-
quent assessments. This would improve the accuracy of the
data, but more importantly, allow stronger causal tests. For
example, Bancroft et al. (2003) reported that many men use
sex (either alone or with a partner) to improve their mood
or reduce stress. If true, this suggests that for some indi-
viduals, bad mood or stress causes sexual activity to occur,
which in turn causes improved mood or reduced stress. To
test this pathway, assessments of mood both before and after
sexual activity are needed, which requires, at minimum, two
measurements per day.
Despite its limitations, our study is the first to report
prospective daily associations between sexual behavior or
physical affection and affective state or stress in an adult
sample. Our results suggest the conventional wisdom may
be true. For our sample of mid-aged women, physical affec-
tion or sexual activity with another person were related to
improved mood, for at least one day. Unpartnered sexual ac-
tivity, however, did not have the same effect, highlighting the
importance of social relationships in the association between
sex and mood. In addition, positive mood was related to in-
creased likelihood of next-day sex or affection. These results
suggest that the associations between physical contact and
mood are driven by complex and intertwined processes that
unfold over time.
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 Col-
lege of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.
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... One specific strategy of stress relief is sexual intercourse. The extant body of research identifies partnered sexual activities and achieving orgasm as well-established strategies to reduce stress and promote overall physical and psychological wellbeing (Berdychevsky & Carr, 2020;Burleson et al., 2007;Ditzen et al., 2007). ...
... Indeed, studies indicated sexual activity and sexual satisfaction improved mood in patients with anxiety and depression (Gagong & Larson, 2011;Smith et al., 2010), contributed to emotional health (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004;Davison et al., 2009), promoted sleep quality (Kleinstäuber, 2017), increased relaxation (Weeks, 2001), and reduced stress (Charnetski & Brennan, 2001;Ein-Dor & Hirschberger, 2012). The positive effects of partnered sexual interactions compared to orgasm from autoeroticism suggest people may be motivated to pursue sexual experiences with others to improve mood and reduce stress (Burleson et al., 2007). Although engaging in sexual activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic may represent a helpful strategy to promote overall physical and psychological well-being among partnered cohabitating adults (Berdychevsky & Carr, 2020;Cabello et al., 2020;CDC, 2020a, b;Rosenberg et al., 2020), a dearth of research has examined the sexual attitudes and behaviors of individuals who violated SIP orders to pursue partnered sexual experiences and mitigate psychological distress with new partners outside their home. ...
... Specifically, studies on related topics have reported that men with less favorable birth control attitudes engaged in risky sexual behaviors (Temple et al., 1993). Additionally, the extant body of research has positioned physical touch and achieving orgasm as well-established strategies to improve overall well-being, reduce stress, and decrease symptoms of depression (Berdychevsky & Carr, 2020;Burleson et al., 2007;Charnetski & Brennan, 2001;Ditzen et al., 2007;Gagong & Larson, 2011;Muise et al., 2016;Smith et al., 2010), especially among men (Baumeister et al., 2001;Ein-Dor & Hirschberger, 2012;Meston & Buss, 2007). The findings of our study supplement existing research that examined the extent to which Brazilian and Portuguese MSM broke shelter-in-place to engage in casual sex (de Sousa et al., 2021). ...
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Although the call to understand how sexual behaviors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has been established as an important area of study, research examining the extent to which gender, sexual attitudes, impulsivity, and psychological distress predicted breaking shelter-in-place (SIP) orders to engage in sexual behaviors with partners residing outside the home is undefined. Obtaining a deeper examination of the variables which predict risky sexual behaviors during SIP has important implications for future research at the intersection of public health, sexuality, and mental health. This study addressed the gap in the literature by considering how partnered sexual behaviors may be used during the COVID-19 pandemic to alleviate stress, as measured by breaking SIP orders for the pursuit of sexual intercourse. Participants consisted of 186 females and 76 males (N = 262) who predominately identified Caucasian/White (n = 149, 57.75%) and heterosexual/straight (n = 190, 73.64%) cultural identities with a mean age of 21.45 years (SD = 5.98, range = 18–65). A simultaneous logistic regression was conducted to examine whether mental health symptoms, sexual attitudes, and impulsivity predicted participants’ decision to break SIP orders to engage in sexual intercourse. Based on our results, breaking SIP orders to pursue sexual activities with partners residing outside the home during the COVID-19 pandemic may be understood as an intentional strategy among men with less favorable birth control attitudes to mitigate the effects of depression. Implications for mental health professionals, study limitations, and future areas of research are additionally provided.
... Psychosocial factors may affect older people's sexuality, but it is also sexuality that affects psychosocial functioning. A key notion about sexuality is that it fosters well-being, indicated by, for example, higher positive affect and lower negative affect (as shown in younger and middle-aged adults: Burleson et al., 2007;Kashdan et al., 2018). Importantly, not only sexual intercourse, but also everyday physical intimacy (e.g., hugging, kissing) is related to lower negative affect and (both perceived and physiological) stress (Burleson et al., 2007;. ...
... A key notion about sexuality is that it fosters well-being, indicated by, for example, higher positive affect and lower negative affect (as shown in younger and middle-aged adults: Burleson et al., 2007;Kashdan et al., 2018). Importantly, not only sexual intercourse, but also everyday physical intimacy (e.g., hugging, kissing) is related to lower negative affect and (both perceived and physiological) stress (Burleson et al., 2007;. However, to date, physical intimacy both experienced and wished by older adults has received considerably less attention than sexual activity and sexual thoughts. ...
... Again, our overarching expectation was that for physical intimacy experienced and wished both common and facet-specific associations might occur. Based on findings from younger and middle-aged adults (Burleson et al., 2007;, we hypothesized that experiencing more physical intimacy will be associated with more positive affect, less negative affect, and lower daily cortisol. Due to lacking indices from previous research, we exploratorily examined the association between physical intimacy wished and positive affect, negative affect, and daily cortisol. ...
Die Altersforschung beleuchtete in den letzten Dekaden diverse Aspekte von sozialen Beziehungen im Alter, dabei blieb Sexualität allerdings häufig unberücksichtigt. Gleichzeitig zeigte die Sexualforschung, dass viele ältere Erwachsene davon berichten, sexuell aktiv zu sein, und dass sexuelle Aktivität im Alter mit Indikatoren erfolgreichen Alterns zusammenhängt. Im Rahmen dieser Dissertation wurden drei empirische Studien durchgeführt, um neue Erkenntnisse über die Sexualität im Alter und ihre Korrelate zu gewinnen. Sexualität wurde dabei als ein facettenreiches Konstrukt verstanden, was zu dem Ansatz führte, verschiedene Aspekte von Sexualität zu unterscheiden: sexuelle Aktivität, sexuelle Gedanken, Intimität, Bedeutsamkeit der Sexualität, sexuelles Vergnügen, erlebte körperliche Nähe und gewünschte körperliche Nähe. Um neue Erkenntnisse über die Natur der Sexualität im Alter zu gewinnen, wurden Zusammenhänge von Sexualität mit dem Alter und der Zugehörigkeit zu einer bestimmten Geburtskohorte untersucht, sowie berichtete Alltagsschwankungen in erlebter und gewünschter körperlicher Nähe. Für ein breiteres Verständnis der Korrelate der Sexualität im Alter wurden Zusammenhänge mit mehreren psychosozialen Faktoren unter gleichzeitiger Berücksichtigung soziodemographischer Merkmale und physischer Gesundheit analysiert. Das Ergebnismuster in Bezug auf die Zusammenhänge mit psychosozialen Faktoren ergab relevante Unterschiede. Zum Beispiel hing eine bestehende Partnerschaft mit häufigerer sexueller Aktivität, häufigeren sexuellen Gedanken und mehr erlebten Intimitätsgefühlen zusammen. Dafür sagte eine längere Beziehungsdauer weniger sexuelle Aktivität und weniger sexuelle Gedanken, aber nicht weniger Intimitätsgefühle voraus. Die Nützlichkeit der Unterscheidung verschiedener Facetten von Sexualität wird diskutiert und der notwendige Einbezug von Sexualität als ein Aspekt enger sozialer Beziehungen im Alter betont.
... Some such research has focused on affectionate touch, specifically. Debrot et al. (2013), for instance, showed that affectionate touch shared between dating partners predicted greater positivity both in participants' own affective state and in their partners' affective state, whereas Burleson et al. (2007) reported significant associations between physical touch and positive mood in a diary study of pre-and perimenopausal women. In a field experiment, Clipman (1999) demonstrated that inducing more frequent hugging produced a significant increase in general subjective wellness. ...
... A second, and related, category of predictions and questions relates to the correlation between affectionate communication and mental health indices, such as anxiety, depressive symptoms, and general subjective wellness. For instance, Bernhold (2020) hypothesized that affectionate communication received from grandparents predicted lower stress, depression, and loneliness for adults, and Burleson et al. (2007) asked whether physical affection would correlate with stress and mood for middle-aged women. ...
A robust body of research attests to the mental and physical health correlates and consequences of affectionate communication. Like much research on personal relationships, however, this work may overrepresent certain portions of the population, may underrepresent others, and may not effectively account for intersections of identities. We define intersectionality as comprising the unique effects of two or more social identities interacting with each other. To assess this literature with an eye toward intersectionality and representation, the present article reports a systematic review of 86 individual empirical studies representing 26,013 participants. The review concludes that there is no explicit or implicit attention to intersectionality in the existing research on affectionate communication and health, and that U.S. Americans, women, younger individuals, white individuals, and students are overrepresented in research samples. The review ends with future directions to encourage more inclusive research on this topic.
... For example, among a national sample of adolescents and adults, solo masturbation (91.8%) and oral sex with a female partner (both receiving [73.5%] and giving [70.9%]) were the most common sexual behaviors for young men, while solo masturbation (76.8%), receiving oral sex from a male partner (79.7%), and vaginal intercourse (85.6%) were the most common sexual behaviors for young women, ages 20-24 (Herbenick et al., 2010). In addition to being common, engaging in sexual behavior is empirically linked to general positive outcomes, such as feelings of happiness (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004); well-being the next day (Burleson et al., 2007;Kashdan et al., 2018); enhanced positive mood (Fortenberry et al., 2005); higher levels of self-esteem, increased ability to voice one's opinions in relationships, body self-esteem (Brody et al., 2002;Horne & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2006); and more romantic appeal (Golden et al., 2016). Engaging in sexual behaviors has also been empirically linked to outcomes related to sexual self-concept such as more sexual interest (Fortenberry & Hensel, 2014), more sexual satisfaction (Golden et al., 2016;Impett & Tolman, 2006), and more sexual openness and sexual selfesteem and less sexual anxiety (Hensel et al., 2011). ...
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Evidence supports sexual experience as normative and health-promoting for many, but this picture is less clear for people with histories of adversity. Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) was used to garner data from a sample of 362 young adults (aged 18–25) wherein 44.5% (n = 161) identified as women. We assessed longitudinal associations between child maltreatment and sexual self-concept, as mediated by sexual behaviors and sexual partners, and whether resilient coping moderated these associations using structural equation modeling. Although both child maltreatment and resilient coping were directly associated with aspects of sexual experience, only resilient coping was directly associated with sexual self-concept. In addition, we found support for sexual experience as a mediator between child maltreatment/resilient coping and sexual self-concept. Specifically, cumulative maltreatment was associated with more sexual partners, which was associated with higher sexual self-monitoring. Resilient coping was associated with more sexual partners and more sexual behaviors, which was associated with higher sexual self-monitoring and higher sexual self-consciousness, sexual assertiveness, sexual self-esteem, and sexual motivation, respectively. Thus, sexual behaviors and sexual partners operated independently. Findings contrast messaging that sexual experience is universally risky regardless of maltreatment history. Rather, sexual experience may foster positive sexual self-concept for some. Sexual health advocates must attend to differences between sexual behaviors and sexual partners in relation to sexual well-being, and support resilience in the sexual domain.
... Kissing and cuddling are the most common forms of physical intimacy between relationship partners, occurring far more often than genital touching, oral sex, and intercourse. [28][29][30] These nongenital forms of physical intimacy are associated with increased sexual arousal, 31 relationship and sexual satisfaction, 7,8,[32][33][34] and positive mood and relational feelings 35,36 and are often characterized as pleasurable alternatives to genital contact. 37,38 A couple's similarity in sexual arousal can be positively associated with the extent to which partners feel satisfied with the sexual event, as well as with their global sexual and relationship satisfaction levels, as shown by Busby et al. 7 In their study, women in couples with similar arousal levels reported higher satisfaction with the experience, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction, as compared with women in couples who experienced sexual arousal discrepancy, especially when women's arousal was lower than their partners'. ...
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Background: Although sexual arousal is commonly experienced in the daily context of relationships, most of what we know about sexual arousal comes from studies on individuals, often conducted in a laboratory context. Aim: To explore to what extent similarity in levels of sexual arousal during nongenital physical intimacy (ie, cuddling and kissing) was associated with each partner's affect as well as sexual and relationship satisfaction. Methods: Ninety-four cohabitating couples (mean ± SD age, 26.30 ± 7.60; 88 mixed gender, 6 same gender) completed 6 ecological momentary assessments a day for 10 consecutive days. We used response surface analysis to examine the associations among the degree and direction of similarity in partners' sexual arousal and affective, sexual, and relational outcome variables. Outcomes: Sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and positive and negative affect. Results: Sexual arousal levels covaried only when partners engaged in physically intimate behaviors, unlike affective responses, which covaried within couples more globally over time. Within-couple similarity at high levels of sexual arousal was positively associated with women's sexual satisfaction but unrelated to men and women's relationship satisfaction and affect. Individual- and couple-level sexual arousal was positively associated with men's sexual satisfaction and women's sexual and relationship satisfaction. Couple-level sexual arousal was relevant to men's affect such that positive affect was higher when sexual arousal levels within the couple were high. Our analyses also revealed a discrepancy effect in that women's positive affect was higher when their own sexual arousal levels were higher than those of their partners. Clinical implications: These findings suggest that as long as sexual arousal levels within a couple are sufficiently high, sexual arousal similarity and discrepancy can be beneficial to one's well-being, supporting the relevance of therapeutical techniques aimed at increasing arousal levels to promote a better affective and relational climate for couples. Strengths and limitations: This study is the first to test the daily associations among sexual arousal similarity and its correlates in a sample of cohabitating couples, providing a more comprehensive view of the interpersonal dynamics through which sexual arousal may influence individual, relational, and sexual well-being. Given our sample's relatively young age, as well as high sexual and relationship satisfaction, the results may not generalize to couples experiencing sexual or relational distress. Conclusion: Within the context of daily relationships, individual- and couple-level dynamics of sexual arousal were associated with sexual and relationship satisfaction, as well as with affective responses of relationship partners.
... The attachment framework, with its emphasis on the importance of "affectional bonds" (Bowlby, 1977, p. 201), explains the abundance of research findings that demonstrate clear links between couple relationship quality, mental health, and physical health in adulthood. In addition to those cited above, these include results indicating affection deprivation as a predictor of stress, loneliness, and depression (Hesse et al., 2016); a significant impact of marriage and affectionate touch on cardiovascular functioning, metabolic and inflammation processes, and immune functioning (Burleson et al., 2007); and, effect sizes of marital quality roughly equivalent to those of diet and exercise on cardiovascular disease outcomes and mortality (Robles et al., 2014). In sum, social relationships, and couple relationships, in particular, appear to be extremely important determinants of mental and physical health trajectories. ...
Reductions in marital relationship quality are pervasive post‐cardiac event. It is not yet understood how relationship quality is linked to mental health outcomes in couples where one member has established cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the interdependence within dyads is seldom measured. This research is required as psychological distress has been independently linked to CVD incidence, morbidity, and mortality. This study assessed associations of relationship quality with depression and anxiety among patients with CVD and their spouses. Participants completed questionnaires measuring four dimensions of relationship quality and mental health. Data were analyzed using an Actor‐Partner Interdependence Model with hierarchical moderation analyses. 181 dyads (N = 362 participants) comprised the study sample. Most patients had coronary artery disease (66.3%) and 25.9% were female. Patients reported higher relationship satisfaction and fewer anxiety symptoms than did spouses. Patients and spouses with high dyadic consensus and affectional expression reported fewer mental health symptoms, but only when the other partner also perceived high levels of consensus and affectional expression in the relationship. Patients and spouses with low dyadic cohesion reported worse mental health symptoms (actor effects), but those effects were no longer significant when both the patient and the spouse appraised the relationship as having high levels of dyadic cohesion. Taken together, relationship quality is linked to mental health symptoms in patients with CVD and their spouses. Longitudinal and experimental studies are now warranted to further substantiate the cross‐sectional findings of this study.
... Consistent with AET, the most likely explanation is that our sample shared affection in an attempt to reinforce their connection and cope with the stress (Floyd, 2019) associated with caring for their newborn. Indeed, physical affection from a spouse on one day can reduce stress the following day (Burleson et al., 2007), suggesting that these couples may have enacted affection because of its ameliorative effects. Another potential explanation is reminiscent of popular press attention to the experience of feeling "touched out" (De La Cretaz & Fox, 2022), wherein parents might feel the need for personal space or be put off by excessive (Hesse & Mikkelson, 2021) or unwelcome affection (Van Raalte et al., 2021) as a result of the demands associated with caring for an infant. ...
In this study, we explored two elements of communication – supportive coparenting and affection – that may relate to parents’ mental health (stress and depression) after the birth of their child. Parents (N = 233) completed an online questionnaire within 12 months of the birth of their child. Results indicated that supportive coparenting was associated with lower stress and depression, and that the relationship between supportive coparenting and depression was attenuated by affection. In contrast, affection was related to greater stress. It appears that affection has nuanced relationships with mental health indicators after the birth of a child.
Why do people fall in love? Does passion fade with time? What makes for a happy, healthy relationship? This introduction to relationship science follows the lifecycle of a relationship – from attraction and initiation, to the hard work of relationship maintenance, to dissolution and ways to strengthen a relationship. Designed for advanced undergraduates studying psychology, communication or family studies, this textbook presents a fresh, diversity-infused approach to relationship science. It includes real-world examples and critical-thinking questions, callout boxes that challenge students to make connections, and researcher interviews that showcase the many career paths of relationship scientists. Article Spotlights reveal cutting-edge methods, while Diversity and Inclusion boxes celebrate the variety found in human love and connection. Throughout the book, students see the application of theory and come to recognize universal themes in relationships as well as the nuances of many findings. Instructors can access lecture slides, an instructor manual, and test banks.
Studies into decline in sexual activity among women in midlife produce equivocal findings, some implicating hormonal and physiological changes, others psycho-social and environmental factors. Women's perspectives rarely inform interpretation of the data. Associations between sexual satisfaction, activity and function, and health and lifestyle factors were explored using data from 2133 female participants in the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (2010-2012). Semi-structured interviews (2012-2015) with 23 women aged 45-59 reporting sexual dissatisfaction in Natsal-3 explored their perceptions of the influences on their sexual activity. Analysis of the survey data showed sexual dissatisfaction to be less common than low frequency and function. Neither menopausal stage nor age was independently associated with any of the dimensions of sexual experience. Only relationship unhappiness was independently associated with all three and communicational difficulty with two (dissatisfaction and lower function). In-depth interviews identified influences on sexual activity not captured in the survey. Tiredness attributed to contemporary challenges of midlife was a dominant theme. Relationship quality mediated its adverse impact. Sexual experience in midlife must be interpreted in light of both life-stage and era, notably, the increasing demands on women in contemporary society and their impact on vitality. Efforts to address sexual wellbeing should take account of the wider social context.
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Organizational researchers are increasingly interested in model ing the multilevel nature of organizational data. Although most organi zational researchers have chosen to investigate these models using traditional Ordinary Least Squares approaches, hierarchical linear models (i.e., random coefficient models) recently have been receiving increased attention. One of the key questions in using hierarchical linear models is how a researcher chooses to scale the Level-1 indepen dent variables (e.g., raw metric, grand mean centering, group mean centering), because it directly influences the interpretation of both the level-1 and level-2 parameters. Several scaling options are reviewed and discussed in light of four paradigms of multilevellcross-level research in organizational science: incremental (i.e., group variables add incremental prediction to individual level outcomes over and above individual level predictors), mediational (i.e., the influence of group level variables on individual outcomes are mediated by individual perceptions), moderational (i.e., the relationship between two individ ual level variables is moderated by a group level variable), and sepa rate (i.e., separate within group and between group models). The paper concludes with modeling recommendations for each of these paradigms and discusses the importance of matching the paradigm under which one is operating to the appropriate modeling strategy.
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BACKGROUND: The presence of social support has been associated with decreased stress responsiveness. Recent animal studies suggest that the neuropeptide oxytocin is implicated both in prosocial behavior and in the central nervous control of neuroendocrine responses to stress. This study was designed to determine the effects of social support and oxytocin on cortisol, mood, and anxiety responses to psychosocial stress in humans. METHODS: In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, 37 healthy men were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test. All participants were randomly assigned to receive intranasal oxytocin (24 IU) or placebo 50 min before stress, and either social support from their best friend during the preparation period or no social support. RESULTS: Salivary free cortisol levels were suppressed by social support in response to stress. Comparisons of pre- and poststress anxiety levels revealed an anxiolytic effect of oxytocin. More importantly, the combination of oxytocin and social support exhibited the lowest cortisol concentrations as well as increased calmness and decreased anxiety during stress. CONCLUSIONS: Oxytocin seems to enhance the buffering effect of social support on stress responsiveness. These results concur with data from animal research suggesting an important role of oxytocin as an underlying biological mechanism for stress-protective effects of positive social interactions.
Using data from a sample of 235 female nurses, this study focused on marital and sexual satisfaction as important criteria in maintaining a healthy disposition, high life satisfaction, and positive sexual relationship characteristics. A cluster analysis identified five different profiles of marital and sexual satisfaction within the total sample. Of the two most positive profiles, one group of women was defined by high scores in both areas, the other by high sexual satisfaction but only moderate marital satisfaction. In two other profiles, the women were very dissatisfied with either sex or marriage. Subsequent analysis showed that the profiles were meaningfully associated with measures of psychological symptoms and overall life satisfaction. The profiles were also associated with measures of sexual desire, sexual stress, sexual compatibility and sexual assertiveness which reflected the sexual characteristics of the relationship. The strongest univariate profile discriminator was the level of sexual desire. A discriminant function analysis revealed that the level of sexual desire was even more powerful when it was compared to the level of sexual compatibility.
The effect of emotional arousal on subsequent sexual arousal was assessed in 14 18-34 yr old men. Ss initially viewed either 1 of 2 emotionally arousing videotapes (depression-and-anger or anxiety-and-anger producing) or a neutral videotape (a travelogue), each of which was followed by an erotic videotape. Sexual arousal was measured physiologically with a penile strain gauge. Although there were no differences in the level of sexual arousal during the antecedent emotionally arousing or neutral videotapes, sexual arousal during the subsequent erotic videotapes was differentially affected by them. Sexual arousal following the anxiety-and-anger videotape was greater than that following either the depression-and-anger videotape or the travelogue. Prior exposure to the travelogue resulted in greater sexual arousal than did the videotape producing depression and anger. (10 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
The links between income, sexual behavior and reported happiness are studied using recent data on a sample of 16,000 adult Americans. The paper finds that sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations. Higher income does not buy more sex or more sexual partners. Married people have more sex than those who are single, divorced, widowed or separated. The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be 1. Highly educated females tend to have fewer sexual partners. Homosexuality has no statistically significant effect on happiness. © The editors of the Scandinavian Journal of Economics 2004. Published by Blackwell Publishing.
• This study examined physiological, affective, and contextual components of female sexual responsiveness and satisfaction. Fifty-five women, aged 21 to 58, 27 of whom were married, participated in two psychophysiological laboratory sessions and completed a questionnaire. During each laboratory session, physiological and self-reported sexual arousal were measured in response to an erotic tape, film, and self-generated fantasies. Vaginal pulse amplitude responses showed married women to be less aroused to erotic materials during session 1 but not session 2. Self-reported sexual arousal was correlated with vaginal response only in the unmarried sample and only during the tape and film of session 1. Subjectively reported sexual arousal was also correlated with a constellation of positive affective states. Generally, negative correlations were found between vaginal response in the laboratory and reported sexual responsiveness at home. The patterning of the affective-physiological relationships suggests several interpretations with regard to female sexuality and models of human emotion.
This study presents data on marital sex based on the 1988 National Survey of Families and Households. With this representative sample of United States adults (n = 7,463), we show how the incidence and frequency of marital sex change over the life course. Consistent with previous research, this study shows a decline in marital sexual incidence and frequency. Several factors contribute to this decline, including biological aging, diminished health, and habituation to sex. In multivariate analyses, age was the single factor most highly associated with marital sexual frequency. Marital happiness was the second most important predictor. Some factors found to be related to sexual frequency are associated with life changes that reduce or increase the opportunity to have sex, including pregnancy, the presence of small children, and sterilization. Controlling for age and many other factors, we found that cohabitors, married individuals who had cohabited before marriage, and those who were in their second or later marriage had more frequent sex than their counterparts who had not experienced these events. The effect of missing responses on the validity of aggregate information on sexual frequency is considered.
During breastfeeding or suckling, maternal oxytocin levels are raised by somatosensory stimulation. Oxytocin may, however, also be released by nonnoxious stimuli such as touch, warm temperature etc. in plasma and in cerebrospinal fluid. Consequently, oxytocin may be involved in physiological and behavioral effects induced by social interaction in a more general context. In both male and female rats oxytocin exerts potent physiological antistress effects. If daily oxytocin injections are repeated over a 5-day period, blood pressure is decreased by 10–20 mmHg, the withdrawal latency to heat stimuli is prolonged, cortisol levels are decreased and insulin and cholecystokinin levels are increased. These effects last from 1 to several weeks after the last injection. After repeated oxytocin treatment weight gain may be promoted and the healing rate of wounds increased. Most behavioral and physiological effects induced by oxytocin can be blocked by oxytocin antagonists. In contrast, the antistress effects can not, suggesting that unidentified oxytocin receptors may exist. The prolonged latency in the tail-flick test can be temporarily reversed by administration of naloxone, suggesting that endogenous opioid activity has been increased by the oxytocin injections. In contrast, the long-term lowering of blood pressure and of cortisol levels as well as the sedative effects of oxytocin have been found to be related to an increased activity of central α2-adrenoceptors. Positive social interactions have been related to health-promoting effects. Oxytocin released in response to social stimuli may be part of a neuroendocrine substrate which underlies the benefits of positive social experiences. Such processes may in addition explain the health-promoting effects of certain alternative therapies. Because of the special properties of oxytocin, including the fact that it can become conditioned to psychological state or imagery, oxytocin may also mediate the benefits attributed to therapies such as hypnosis or meditation. © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.