Sex is great, but cuddling afterwards is what really makes people happy, according to a new study. The series of four studies, called “More Than Just Sex,” “Affection Mediates The Association Between Sexual Activity And Well-Being,” found that hugging = happiness.
The first study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, questioned 335 men and women, asking them how often they often they did it, whether or not they kissed, hugged, or cuddled while doing it, and their how happy they were generally in life. Respondents who were the cuddlers and huggers were the happiest.
“Sex is associated with greater individual well-being, but little is know about why this occurs,” the study found. “We predicted that experienced affection would account for the association between sex and well-being.”
In the second study, 106 couples, mostly married with children, were asked to keep a diary for ten days. Each couple kept track of when they had sex, when affection was shown, and what their mood was like. The tracking included “moments of love and security” and “affectionate or thoughtful signs from my partner.” (“He just said I was cute and funny then hugged me. She just said I had a great ass and grabbed it.”) People are simple.
Anik Debrot, a researcher at the Cognition & Affect Regulation Laboratory at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, led the study of couples in the San Francisco Bay area. She said “People who felt more positive emotions, like joy and optimism, after having sex with their partner, showed more relationship satisfaction after a 6-month period. This shows that what is good for you is good for your relationship. Our findings underscore the importance of affection and positive affect for understanding how sex promotes well-being, and has long-term relational benefits.”
Studies of actual cuddling has shown that it raises Oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, a pea-sized thingee at the base of the brain. It’s often known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” because it is released when people get their cuddle on. Exercising, listening to music, or even playing with your dog can raise Oxytocin levels. (Playing with yourself will do it too.)
Next, Debrot told the Today Show, “We want to test this hypothesis in a future study. A life period where sexual frequency, and relationship satisfaction, tend to decline in the postpartum period. We want to test whether the couples who maintain high levels of physical affection are protected from those declines after the birth of their child.”