Study Finds Sexting Is Associated With Negative Mental Health

A new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking suggests those who sext are more vulnerable to mental health issues including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and even uncontrollable sexual behaviors.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than eight out of 10 individuals participated in sexting in 2014. As of July 2022, around 14% of middle and high school students in the United States partook in sexting, while 23% of students were sent explicit photos from others, per the Cyberbullying Research Center. Sexting means sending explicit images or messages to someone through your phone, computer, or other technology devices.

Although sexting can be consensual, Nicholas C. Borgogna, Ph.D. of Texas Tech University, suggests that participants who sent sexts but didn’t get a response reported feeling more depressed, anxious, and suffering from sleep problems compared to other groups. The team also found a feasible link between sexting associated with marijuana use and compulsive sexual behavior.

The research team studied 2,160 college participants in the U.S. and found that 76.6% occupied themselves in sexting, typically in a mutual manner. The results were most substantial on compulsive sexual behavior measures and marijuana usage, compared to other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

"While sexting may not necessarily be a causal factor of negative mental health outcomes or substance use, some meaningful covariation clearly exists," says the team.

It is crucial to always keep in mind that sexting should always be consensual and reciprocal. It's patently also illegal to sext with anyone under the age of 18, as it can lead to serious child pornography offenses.

Brenda K. Wiederhold, the editor-in-chief Of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, concludes: "Over 50% of adults report sending a sext, while women are up to four times more likely than men to report having received nonconsensual sexts. Many individuals reveal they enjoy consensual sexting and feel it empowers them and builds self-confidence. Nonconsensual sexts, however, can result in feelings of violation and awkwardness."

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