NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Contrary to conventional wisdom, cuddling and caressing are more important to men than women in a long-term relationship, according to a new international study.
Researchers, who studied responses from adults in the United States, Brazil, Germany, Japan and Spain, also discovered that men were more likely to be happy in their relationship and that frequent kissing or cuddling was an accurate predictor of happiness for men.
"I was a little surprised," said Julia Heiman, the director of Indiana University's Kinsey Institute, which conducted the study that will be published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal.
"Some of the stereotypes we have are borne out of what we feel comfortable believing -- that men prefer sex, or women prefer intimacy over sex, for example," she added.
The researchers examined more than 1,000 couples aged 40 to 70 from the five countries who had been together for an average of 25 years.
Unlike men, women were happier as time went on, according to the findings. If they had been with their partner less than 15 years they were also less likely to be sexually satisfied but that percentage rose significantly after the 15-year mark.
"Possibly, women become more satisfied over time because their expectations change, or life changes with the children grown," Heiman said. "On the other hand, those who weren't so sexually happy might not be married so long."
Japanese men and women were significantly happier in their relationships than Americans, who were more content than Brazilians and Spaniards.
Japanese men in particular were more than twice as sexually satisfied in their relationships than other nationalities.
"I honestly don't know why this is," Heiman said in an interview. "Japanese couples may interpret the survey questions slightly different. Maybe Americans interpret this in a much more critical way."
Japanese and Brazilian women were also more likely than American women to be happy with their sex lives.
"Americans are pretty notoriously not satisfied with things," Heiman said. "The United States is certainly not the happiest country when it comes to comparing it to others."
Heiman said that the data may reflect the dynamics of a long-term relationship.
"Maybe it's about durability. A major factor is how long you've been together. What you value as important may mean a lot more after the near-term."
Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Patricia Reaney