Journal Critique: “Money, Sex, and Happiness: an Empirical Study”

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The degree to which various life factors influence happiness varies on an individual and cultural basis, but certain patterns can be identified. In a study published in the Scandanavian Journal of Economics, David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald attempt to quantify the degree to which sexual relations are linked to personal happiness. Can an increasing our sexual activity increase our happiness? Do monogamous sexual relationships lead to more happiness? The study attempts to shed some light on these long-standing questions, and has found that sexuality does indeed have a strong influence on happiness (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 9 ).

In their review of related literature, Branchflower and Oswald found that while happiness itself has been studied extensively, no previously existing literature explored correlations between sexual relations and happiness (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 2). Research literature exists regarding the relationship between happiness and its correlation with other factors, however, such as unemployment, positive and negative major life events, and average stress levels (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 3). However, the authors claimed that there had been no published effort to link happiness to sexual experiences. The researchers did find that a previous study done by Edward Laumann and Robert Michael on sexual patterns did touch on related topics, but did not relate those sexual patterns to happiness (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 2).

The researchers used pre-existing data on sexual behavior and happiness from a large number of survey participants in the U.S General Social Survey. The data was collected from approximately 16,000 American men and women over a twenty-four year period, 1988 to 2002 (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 5). The survey data was gathered in face-to-face conversations with participants on a wide variety of topics. Data on happiness was determined by the answer to the question, “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days – would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 5), and the responses to this question were related to the responses to questions regarding other variables. Respondents were assured that the survey data would be kept anonymous. For this study, Oswald and Blanchflower then applied statistical analysis techniques to the previously gathered survey data to determine the correlation between aspects of sexuality and happiness. In this study, the authors analyzed the relation between gender, age, sexual orientation, education level, income, and happiness.

Through their analysis of the data gathered, Blanchflower and Oswald found that more frequent sexual activity is strongly correlated with increased happiness, for both men and women (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004, p. 9). However, the researchers did not determine if a causal link exists between happiness and sexuality. The study found a number of interesting and useful facts, however. According to the study, those in monogamous relationships having sexual relations with a single person are the happiest overall. They found that the average American has sex only two or three times a month, though married people and those under forty years of age were found to be slightly more sexually active on average. Interestingly, education seemed to play a role in sexuality as well. Increased sexual activity was more strongly correlated with increased happiness in highly educated people, and highly educated women reported a lower number of sexual partners when compared to less educated women on average. In terms of sexual orientation, researchers found that it does not have a strong correlation with happiness, and they concluded that homosexual individuals were no more or less happy than heterosexuals on average. Income was found not to result in a higher than average number of sexual partners or a higher than average...
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