NEW YORK — Gay and bisexual boys are almost six times as likely as their heterosexual peers to misuse steroids, according to a new study Reuters Health reports.
“What was most surprising to us was the magnitude of the disparities that emerged between sexual minority and heterosexual boys,” Aaron J. Blashill from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Reuters Health in an email.
More than 5 percent of adolescent boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids to enhance strength, athletic performance, and muscle size, but nobody had studied the association between sexual orientation and steroid abuse before, Blashill and his colleague Steven A. Safren told Reuters.
Long-term misuse of steroids can lead to heart problems, hormone-related changes and psychiatric disorders.
The researchers were concerned that gay and bisexual boys might be more likely to misuse steroids because of other factors that have been tied to steroid and other substance abuse. Those include depression, victimization, suicidal thoughts and intent and poor body image, the article said.
To see if that was the case, Blashill and Safren used data from the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of 17,250 teenage boys, including 635 who were gay or bisexual.
About 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys said they had abused steroids at some time in their lives, compared with only 4 percent of heterosexual boys, Reuters reports.
Gay and bisexual boys were also nearly six times as likely as heterosexual boys to report moderate use of steroids (at least 10 times) or severe use (at least 40 times), according to the report in the journal Pediatrics.
In an effort to understand why, the researchers looked at other factors thought to be important contributors to steroid use. They found drug and alcohol use, depression or suicidal tendencies and feelings of victimization played a role in steroid misuse.