Sexting is common, with more than eight out of 10 people admitting to sending or receiving sexually explicit content, say Drexel University researchers. What's more important, they add, is that this everyday practice may help some people feel more satisfied with their relationship.

Through the eyes of a public health official, sexting is risky, end of story. The texting of sexually explicit messages or photos has been linked to risk-taking behaviors, such as unprotected sex and drug use, and these in some cases lead to negative consequences, such as sexually transmitted infections. But texting naughty pics, in the eyes of the beholder, is simply another form of open communication between sex partners.

Seen in this light, could there be some positive health effects linked to sexting?

To answer this question, Emily Stasko, a graduate student and researcher, and her co-author, Dr. Pamela Geller, an associate professor of psychology, surveyed 870 people. All self-identified as heterosexual adults between the ages of 18 and 82 (median age of 35), all lived in the United States, and more than half were female (nearly 58 percent). The majority (74 percent) said they currently were in a relationship and of these, 43 percent reported being married. Another 43 percent reported never having been married.

Participation in the study simply involved answering questions on a 20-minute survey. After participants completed the surveys, the researchers collected and analyzed the data that assessed sexting behavior, sexting motives, and relationship and sexual satisfaction.

Surprisingly, 82 percent of participants reported they had sexted in the past year, the researchers report, while 88 percent said they’d done so at least once in their lives. Nearly 75 percent of the survey respondents said they sexted in the context of a committed relationship and 43 percent said they did so as part of a casual relationship. Only 12 percent of the participants reported ever having sexted in an illicit relationship.

The most frequently reported location for sexting was home (76 percent), but almost 30 percent of participants said they had sexted at work or while “out and about.” More sexting, for some of the participants, was associated with greater sexual satisfaction.

“For individuals who are not in a ‘very committed’ relationship, sexting is positively associated with satisfaction," wrote the researchers, "however, for individuals who describe their relationship as being ‘very committed,’ sexting is unrelated to satisfaction.” Expectedly, the singles (about a quarter of the participants) scored significantly lower on sexual satisfaction compared to those in a relationship.

Source; Stasko EC, Geller PA. Reframing Sexting as a Positive Relationship Behavior. American Psychological Association Convention. 2015.