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Gay and Bisexual Boys Found to Be Considerably More Likely to Use Steroids

A significantly higher percentage of U.S. gay and bisexual boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids compared to heterosexual boys, according to a study published online last week in the journal Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 17,250 adolescent boys, including 635 classified as "sexual minorities" (either gay or bisexual), taken from the 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. The boys were asked a handful of questions about their sexual orientation, including which gender they were attracted to or the gender of their sexual partners. Those who responded "males" or "males and females" were defined as "sexual minorities" for the purposes of the study.

The researchers sought to determine whether a boy's sexual orientation had any bearing on his likelihood to misuse steroids. Based on their findings, they discovered that boys defined as sexual minorities had a significantly higher likelihood to use steroids. 

Of the 635 boys identified as gay or bisexual in the study, 133 had used steroids at some point in their lives (21 percent), compared to 665 heterosexual boys (4 percent). Gay and bisexual boys also reported higher levels of moderate (10 or fewer times) and severe (40 or fewer times) use of steroids.

Fifty-one boys in the "sexual minority" category reported moderate use (8 percent), compared to 249 heterosexual boys (1.5 percent). Twenty-five gay and bisexual boys reported severe use of steroids (4 percent) compared to 116 heterosexual boys (0.7 percent).

"Gay and bisexual boys are often targets of bullying, and some boys (particularly if they also possess poor body image) may turn to anabolic-androgen steroids use as a means to obtain a more muscular build, in hopes it would deter others from bullying them," said Aaron Blashill, one of the authors of the study, to Reuters.

A study published in Pediatrics back in November 2012 found muscle-enhancing behaviors to be common among teenage males of all sexual preferences. Nearly 70 percent of the boys in the study (897 of 1,307 total) reported having changed their eating habits to increase their muscle size or tone within the past 12 months, and more than 90 percent of boys increased their amount of exercise to achieve that same goal.

More than one-third of boys in that study reported using protein powders or shakes, 5.9 percent reported using steroids, and 10.5 percent reported using some other muscle-enhancing substance.

"If we know that a boy has body image concerns, then we definitely should be assessing what sort of behaviors he might be engaged in, in response to that dissatisfaction," Blashill said to CNN.com.

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