People with higher rates of anxiety, depression – not loneliness – are more likely to use “sextech”: UI News: Indiana University

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A new study conducted by researchers from Indiana University Kinsey Institute found that people who reported higher rates of anxiety and depression – but not loneliness – were more likely to use emerging digital sex technologies, or “sextech,” including sending pictures or sexually explicit videos and visiting erotic cam sites.

The researchers said this suggests that people with altered mental health may use sex technologies to experience temporary relief from their psychological distress.

Alexandra Marcotte, study principal investigator and postdoctoral researcher at the Kinsey Institute, said new technologies – including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and shared online environments – already offer opportunities to explore new forms social interaction and sexual fulfillment.

“As the global need for innovative mental health resources and interventions grows, these emerging sexual technologies may bring relief to people struggling with mental health issues,” Marcotte said. “This research provides an important avenue for expanding the reach of mental health interventions, especially as technology becomes more prevalent and accessible in everyday life.”

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, surveyed more than 8,000 American adults to examine associations between mental health issues and online sexual behavior, particularly engagement with new forms of sexual technology.

Most of the study participants who reported greater depression reported using sextech more. This included men of all sexual orientations, as well as heterosexual women. However, in lesbian and bisexual women, depression was not significantly related to their use of sextech.

Likewise, increased anxiety was associated with greater use of various types of sextech for the entire sample and for men of all sexual orientations. Lesbian and bisexual women who reported higher anxiety used more forms of sextech, but heterosexual women’s anxiety was not related to their use of sextech.

The researchers also sought to examine the common belief that online sexual experiences can be an alternative to social engagement and can be a behavioral response to feelings of psychological loneliness. Contrary to that expectation, the study found that participants who reported high levels of loneliness were less likely to engage in sextech, unlike the model for participants reporting high levels of anxiety and / or depression.

Amanda Gesselman, Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist and Associate Director of Research at the Kinsey Institute, said a common misconception is that people turn to the internet for romantic or sexual relationships because they are unable to form relationships. face to face.

“Our results prove the opposite, suggesting that online sex spaces do not work as a ‘last resort’ for people who have not been able to engage in real-life sex,” said Gesselman, who also participated in the research. . “Instead, it is likely that many users of these spaces have adequate social support and social media, but they are turning to online sex technologies for a unique boost to their mindset. psychological.”

The most commonly used form of sextech was sending sexually explicit images or videos – that is, sexting – reported by 30% of study participants. Almost one in five respondents (18%) had visited a cam website. Other forms of sextech that participants engaged with included: playing sexually explicit online RPGs or video games (14%), participating in a camera feed (12%), accessing real-life pornography virtual (11%), using a teledildonic accessory (9%), and exchanging sexually explicit messages with a chatbot (9%).

Within the sample, 79% of men and 51% of women reported using some form of sextech. In addition, 61% of heterosexual participants and 83% of gay / bisexual participants had used sextech.

The study, independently funded by Docler Holdings LLC, was conducted online with data collected by Prodege, a third-party data collection company. The recruitment of participants reflects the demographics of the US population as estimated by the US Census Bureau.

Other Kinsey Institute researchers who contributed to the study include Ellen Kaufman, a graduate research assistant who is also part of the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering; postdoctoral researcher Jessica T. Campbell; researcher Tania Reynolds, who is also an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico; and Executive Director Justin R. Garcia, who is also the Ruth N. Halls Professor of Gender Studies at IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.

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