Couples who send each other sexually suggestive or explicit images by phone, commonly known as "sexting," have better sex, according to a study presented to a psychology convention in Toronto.
The practice is often portrayed as risky, yet American researchers found it is widespread and could actually help couples improve communication and increase intimacy.
"These findings show a robust relationship between sexting and sexual and relationship satisfaction," said Emily Stasko of Philadelphia's Drexel University.
She presented the results of an online survey of 870 Americans aged 18 to 82 at the American Psychological Association's 123rd Annual Convention in Toronto on Saturday.
More than eight out of 10 respondents said they have sexted. Three-quarters of them sent images to a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife, and associated sexting with better relationship satisfaction.
That increased gratification, however, did not carry over to singles surveyed, nor to respondents who said they were in a "very committed" relation.
Despite its potential to enhance communication between partners, past studies — and recent headlines — have focused almost exclusively on negative outcomes from sexting.
Some of the best known examples include news last year about phone hacks that led to the leak of nude photos of celebrities including actress Jennifer Lawrence, pop icon Rihanna and top model Kate Upton.
In another notorious sexting case, US lawmaker Anthony Weiner quit the House of Representatives after confessing that he used social media to send sexually explicit pictures of himself to a number of women.
But such highly publicized negative outcomes said Stasko, fail to take into account the upside of sexting, which, when used by a loving couple, can increase the "potential positive effects of open sexual communication with a partner."