Prevalence, mental health and substance use of anabolic steroid users: a population-based study on young individuals

Sunna Gestsdottir*, Hafrun Kristjansdottir, Hedinn Sigurdsson, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Aims: The use of anabolic androgen steroids to enhance performance is not a modern phenomenon. However, the majority of today’s anabolic androgen steroid users are not competitive athletes, but individuals who want to look leaner and muscular. This study aimed to examine the prevalence of anabolic androgen steroid use among young individuals and assess whether their mental health, lifestyle and substance use differ from non-anabolic androgen steroid users. Methods: A population-based study conducted in secondary schools, mean age was 17.3 years. A total of 10,259 participants (50% young women, 1% reported gender as ‘other’, 49% young men) answered questions on mental health, anabolic androgen steroid use, substance use and sports participation. Statistical analysis included descriptive statistics, t-test, χ2 and logistic regression. Results: The prevalence of anabolic androgen steroid use was 1.6%, and 78% of users were young men. Anabolic androgen steroid users had more anger issues, anxiety, depression, and their self-esteem was lower than among non-anabolic androgen steroid users (P<0.05). A larger proportion of anabolic androgen steroid users, 30%, had attempted suicide compared to 10% of non-users (χ2 (1, 9580) = 57.5, P<0.001). Proportionally, anabolic androgen steroid users were more likely to take medicine for mental health problems and misuse substances than non-users. Participation in non-organised sports, increased anger and body image were associated with increased odds of using anabolic androgen steroids. Conclusions: Anabolic androgen steroid use is a public health threat. It had an alarming effect on the life of individuals who report having used anabolic androgen steroids. Authorities, healthcare workers, parents and others working with young people need to be informed of the signs and risks of anabolic androgen steroid use to reduce future negative implications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) 2020.

Other keywords

  • anabolic androgen steroids
  • Mental health
  • performance-enhancing drugs
  • substance use
  • young individuals


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