High school students who sext — the term for texting sexually suggestive or explicit messages or photos — are more likely to be depressed, a new study reveals.
The preliminary findings of an Education Development Center study show 13% of students engage in sexting, 10% of students have sent sexts in the past year, and 5% have sent sexually explicit photos of themselves.
The teens involved in sexting were more likely to attempt suicide (13% vs. 3%) and were twice as likely to report depressive behaviors (36% vs. 17%).
The study, which does not specify whether sexting causes depression or vice versa, polled 23,000 teens in Boston’s western suburbs. The students polled are mainly from middle or upper class communities and 74% are white, making the findings most applicable to similar groups.
The findings also revealed students identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual and students who were sexually active are more likely to sext than their heterosexual and non-sexually active counterparts. Students who sext also spend more time on their phones.
The preliminary findings, which will be further analyzed, explain there are multiple causes of sexting. “Sext messages may be sent as a deliberate form of cyberbullying, but they also may be sent as a way for youth to engage within online communities,” says an EDC statement.
Given the perils of sexting, it’s fortunate the practice appears to be in decline, Dr. Michael Rich, associate professor at Harvard told ABCNews.com. Teens now better understand their vulnerability when they send an explicit photo, which comes with the risk of prosecution for pornography or that the image spreads to unwanted recipients.