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The prevalence of sexting, the sending and receiving of sexually suggestive messages through cell phones or social media, continues to increase, especially among emerging adults (Lee et al. 2015). The present study aimed to determine if there are differences between sexting behavior and mental health outcomes among emerging adults. A sample of 289 emerging adults (Mage = 19.04, SD = 1.48) completed a survey examining sexting behavior and mental health. Using Gorden-Messer et al. (2012) coding scheme, sexting behavior was categorized as 1 = nonsexters (Never sexted), 2 = receivers (Received nude image), and 3 = two-way sexters (Received and sent nude images). The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) (Gloster et al., 2008) was used to measure depression, anxiety, and stress. Results showed that most of the participants reported being two-way sexters (44.3%). A one-way ANOVA was conducted to examine differences between sexting behaviors and mental health outcomes. Significant differences were found between sexting behavior and depression F(2, 281) = 9.46, p < .001, η2 = .063, anxiety F(2, 281) = 10.77, p < .001, η2 = .071, and stress F(2, 281) = 17.33, p < .001, η2 = .110. Overall, two-way sexters reported significantly higher scores of depression, anxiety, and stress compared to nonsesxters. The results indicate that sexting behavior may have a negative impact on mental health. Stress has been found to correlate with negative symptoms of depression and major depression development (O’Keane et al. 2005). This is important to note given that high depression and anxiety (Beautraise 2000) levels can lead to substance abuse (Teter et al. 2010), poor academic performance, and suicide (Eisenberg et al. 2007). Further research is needed to further understand the relationship between sexting behavior and other mental health outcomes among emerging adults.

Keywords: sexting, mental health, emerging adults


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
132 MB



  • Subject
    • Psychological Science

  • Institution
    • Gainesville

  • Event date
    • 17 April 2020

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Efren Velazquez