Twenty-one percent of boys who identify as gay or bisexual say they have used steroids. That’s compared to just 4% of straight boys, according to a study published by The American Academy of Pediatrics Journal that compares “the lifetime prevalence of anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) misuse among sexual minority versus heterosexual US adolescent boys,” and attempts explain the differences.
Reasons for the increase in steroid use are unclear, but researchers say it’s possible gay and bisexual boys feel more pressure to have a muscular, stereotypical male physique or they think muscle-building will fend off bullies, according to the Associated Press.
Dr. Rob Garofalo, adolescent medicine chief at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told the Associated Press the differences aren’t surprising, since it is known that gay youth often have “body image issues.” But, he said, “It is still shocking. These are dramatically high rates.”
In terms of moderate use, there were still differences between straight teens and gay or bi teens. For boys who take steroid pills or injections up to 40 times, 8% of gay or bi teens reported that amount, versus less than 2% of straight boys. For boys who take pills or injections more than 40 times, 4% of gay or bi boys reported that amount versus less than 1% of straight boys.
This data is from an analysis of government surveys from 2005 and 2007 taken from a pooled data set of the 14 jurisdictions. It involved 17,250 teen boys aged 16 on average; 635 boys, almost 4%, were gay or bisexual.
The journal said this is the first known study to to find a connection between AAS misuse and sexual orientation.
Steroids and teenagers are a bad combination. The Food and Drug Administration released a consumer update in November that stated the danger in taking steroids. They said side effects can include heart and liver problems, high blood pressure, acne, and aggressive behavior. Mood swings, unnatural muscle growth, and breast development in boys can occur if they abuse steroids.
Kids are often less open about using steroids than about drinking or smoking marijuana, but the study helps shed light on the issue, especially concerning gay and bi kids, Garofalo told the AP.