A new study from The Fenway Institute published online in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that gay and bisexual boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids at rates much higher than their straight counterparts.
Fenway researchers Aaron Blashill and Steven Safren used a nationally-representative dataset of 17,250 U.S. adolescent boys ages 14-18 to assess if there were higher rates of steroid use among gay and bisexual boys compared to heterosexual boys. The investigators found that 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys compared with 4 percent of heterosexual boys used AAS at least once in their lives.
Gay and bisexual boys were also much more likely to be heavy users of AAS — 4 percent compared with 0.7 percent of heterosexual boys.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids — testosterone and synthetic derivatives — are substances typically used to increase strength, performance, and muscularity. Chronic use of AAS is associated with poor health outcomes, including cardiovascular, neurological, endocrine and psychiatric complications.
Previous research suggests that between 1 percent and 5.4 percent of adolescent boys have used AAS. However, no known studies have examined the prevalence of AAS use among gay and bisexual boys.
"This is the first known study that examined the prevalence of AAS use among gay and bisexual boys. We hypothesized that a disparity would exist. However, we were rather shocked at the magnitude, with gay and bisexual boys being over 5 times more likely to use AAS compared to heterosexual boys," said Dr Blashill.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people experience bullying, verbal and physical harassment at rates much higher than their straight peers and Blashill noted that gay and bisexual boys may be at elevated risk of AAS use due to increased symptoms of depression, victimization, substance use, and poor body image because of this.
The data used for this study was excerpted from a research project being supported by the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at The Fenway Institute.