"Keeping up with the Joneses" might actually boost your personal happiness if "keeping up" means "having more sex than you think your friends are having," claims a new study.
"There is an overall increase in sense of well-being that comes with engaging in sex more frequently, but there’s also this relative aspect to it," says author Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder.
"Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier," he adds.
The researchers looked at more than 15,000 results from the General Social Survey in which respondents were asked about both happiness levels and sexual frequency to determine how having more sex impacted people's lives. They found that individuals' contentment was deeply affected by how frequently their peers were having sex — or how frequently they assumed their peers were doing the deed.
So while people who claimed to have sex two to three times a month were 33 per cent more likely to report higher levels of happiness than those in the midst of a year-long dry spell, that number dropped by 14 per cent if they believed their friends were doing it once a week.
"In other words: if you think other people are having more sex than you, there's a chance it'll drag down your happiness," writes io9's Robert T. Gonzalez.
The researchers cite magazines, television, movies and friendship networks as contributors to our understanding of normative sexual behaviour around us.
Also see: Cuddle Rape? The unfortunate name of an Ikea pillow when translated from Swedish
Wadsworth claims that we sabotage our own happiness by comparing ourselves to those we believe are better off.
"We're usually not looking down and thinking of ourselves as better off, but instead looking up and therefore feeling insufficient and inadequate," Wadsworth says in a press release.
Adjectives like "attractive," "smart," and "poor," he says, "are meaningful only if there's some sense of what other people are like. As such, we can only be wealthy if others are poor, or sexually active if others are inactive."
Are comparisons part of how you determine your own happiness? Or, in the case or sexual frequency, would you rather not know what the Joneses are doing and how often they're doing it?