The association between daily stress and sexual activity

J Fam Psychol. 2010 Jun;24(3):271-9. doi: 10.1037/a0019365.


Research has shown that stressors and experienced stress are negatively correlated with sexual activity (i.e., behavior and satisfaction) within couples. Thus far, most studies have been cross-sectional and report correlations only. This study is one of the first to examine the covariation between self-perceived stress and daily sexual activity within a time period of 3 months by collecting data on stress, sexual activity, sexual satisfaction, and sexual fulfillment as well as individual and dyadic coping. The association among these variables was tested in a multilevel model that included cyclical terms to capture the regular variation of sexual behavior over the days of the week. One hundred and three female students completed questionnaires and diaries 12 times during a 3-month period just prior to a major exam. Findings suggest that higher self-reported stress in daily life was associated with lower levels of sexual activity and satisfaction and a decrease in relationship satisfaction. In addition, dyadic coping was positively associated with sexual outcomes but did not moderate the association of experienced stress and sexuality. Implications for sexuality research in close relationships and methods for studying cyclical processes are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Psychological Tests
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult