A study of more than 23,000 high school students finds 13 percent have received a sext message and 10 percent have either forwarded, sent or posted sexually suggestive, explicit or nude photos or videos by cellphone or online.
The study was presented at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Sexting can include overtones of bullying and coercion, and teens who are involved were more likely to report being psychologically distressed, depressed or even suicidal, according to the 2010 survey of 24 (of 26) high schools in Boston's metro-west region.
Twice as many respondents who said they had sexted in the past year reported depressive symptoms, compared to teens who did not. Moreover, 13 percent of teen involved in sexting reported a suicide attempt during that period compared with 3 percent of non-sexting teens, according to the researchers at the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass.
That doesn't mean that sexting leads to depression or increases suicide risk. "It's a cross-sectional study -- it shows an association but not a causal relationship," explained lead researcher Shari Kessel Schneider.
However, she added, "It's important to know there's a link between sexting and psychological distress. It's something to be considered if you know of a youth who is involved in sexting."
Of the high-school students, 10 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls said they had sent one of these images in the past year, while 6 percent of males and 4 percent of females had had such an image sent of themselves.
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