A survey conducted to assess how common the practice of sexting is among adults has revealed that more than 8 out of 10 people admitted to sexting over the past year, indicating that the practice could be more widespread than previously thought.
The research will be presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention, held in Toronto, Canada.
Sexting was defined by the study authors as the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or suggestive text messages, typically sent using a mobile device.
Study co-author Emily Stasko, of Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, states that sexting has been considered by some as a risky activity associated with other sexual risk-taking behaviors and negative health outcomes. These include unprotected sex and sexually transmitted infections.
“Given the possible implications, both positive and negative, for sexual health, it is important to continue investigating the role sexting plays in current romantic and sexual relationships,” states Stasko.
Previous studies of adolescents using sexting have made a direct association between the practice and sexual risk behavior. One study published in Pediatrics in 2012 concluded that, rather than acting as an alternative to “real world” sexual risk behavior, sexting appeared to be a part of a number of risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex.
Another study published last year in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that the sharing of sexual photos was associated with some risky sexual behaviors – having multiple or concurrent sexual partners – as well as using illegal substances and having lower self-esteem than peers who did not practice sexting.
To examine the prevalence of the practice among adults, the researchers surveyed a total of 870 people from the US aged between 18-82 years. Just over half of the participants were female and 26% of the participants reported being single. As well as asking about sexting behaviors, the researchers aimed to assess motives, relationships and sexual satisfaction.
They discovered 88% of the participants had sexted at some point, and 82% had sexted in the past year. The majority of sexting took place within the context of a committed relationship, with 75% of participants reporting this, while 43% stated that they had sexted as part of a casual relationship.
Within relationships, higher levels of sexting were associated with greater sexual satisfaction. Higher levels of sexting were also associated with relationship satisfaction among participants in relationships, apart from those who described their relationship as “very committed.”
Participants who sexted the most considered the practice to be fun and carefree and were more likely to consider it has an expected aspect of a relationship.
Stasko told Medical News Today they found that not all sexting is equal:
“As with other forms of communication, context and intent matter. Sexting appears to be generally good for sexual satisfaction. Within the context of a relationship, wantedness of sexting matters. Unwanted sexting is bad for relationship satisfaction. Wanted sexting is good for sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexuals.”
While previous studies have focused on a link between sexting and risky sexual behavior, Stasko believes this focus fails to account for the potential positive effects of open sexual communication.
“This research indicates that sexting is a prevalent behavior that adults engage in for a variety of reasons,” she concludes. “These findings show a robust relationship between sexting and sexual and relationship satisfaction.”
Previously, MNT reported on a study that investigated the prevalence of sexual risk-taking among women on vacation, assessing how and which tourist activities were most conducive to risk-taking.