"People who use steroids are more likely to engage in different forms of violence," said Dr Kevin M. Beaver of Florida State University in Tallahassee, a researcher on the study. The link remained, he added, even after he and his colleagues used statistical techniques to account for prior acts of violence, use of other drugs, race and age.
Outside the world of professional sports, where use of muscle-building anabolic-androgenic steroids has long been in the headlines, surveys have shown that US adolescents and young adults also use the drugs, Beaver and his colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health.
While the physical effects of taking steroids are well understood, they add, less is known about how they might affect emotions and behavior. Some studies support a link between steroid use and aggressive behavior, but others have not, Beaver and his team say.
How the study was done
To investigate, the researchers looked at 6 823 young men who had joined the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health as 7th- to 12th-graders in 1994, and were followed for nearly seven years.
As young adults, 2.6% reported having ever used steroids, while 2.3% said they had used them in the previous year. Beaver speculated that the prevalence he and his colleagues found was likely an underestimate.