Ninety-seven percent of the American public believes that negative health effects exist from using steroids, yet only 19 percent believe that steroid use is a big problem among high school students, according to a national study announced in New York City last week.
“The American Public’s Perception of Illegal Steroid Use,” a national survey developed by the Center for Social Development and Education and the Center for Survey Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is the most comprehensive opinion survey to date, assessing the American public’s knowledge, perceptions and beliefs about the use of performance-enhancing drugs among adolescents, according to a media release.
The survey was commissioned by the Taylor Hooton Foundation, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society to provide a foundation for a national dialogue about the misconceptions of steroid use and to show the need for national education on the impact of harmful performance-enhancing drugs in communities across the country.
“There is a clear disconnect between what the public knows and believes about steroids and their perceptions of it as a problem or lack thereof among adolescents,” Dr. Gary Siperstein, director for Center for Social Development and Education at UMass-Boston, said in a HOF media release. “To move forward and educate the public, this disconnect needs to be addressed. It is clear that through the lens of the public, there is much to learn about the use of performance-enhancing drugs among adolescents. If programs are to reduce steroid use among adolescents, particularly adolescents attending high school, it is clear that to obtain public support for these programs, the public needs to be educated about this problem.”
The public perceives steroid use as the lowest-rated problem among adolescents relative to other problems that adolescents may face in the form of all other prevalent risk behaviors and conditions; it is ranked even lower than eating disorders. This finding is consistent across all regions of the country, all age groups, and even among those who are interested or have participated in sports. The Gallup organization administered the study, which was developed in August.
The announcement of the study is a step in waking up America to address this problem, according to Don Hooton, founder of the Taylor Hooton Foundation.
“Our wakeup call begins with the recognition that we don’t know what we don’t know. We all need to understand that this problem is going in my child’s school and is most likely going on in my child’s circle of friends. We must realize that the solution to this problem begins with raising the awareness level of this drug problem,” he said in the release.
Study results show that the public does not see illegal use of steroids as a big problem among high school students, yet one out of two see it as a problem among college students and two out of three see it as a big problem for professional athletes. The survey shows that only one of two respondents had anyone discuss the negative health effects of steroid use with them, even though respondents almost unanimously admitted that steroids cause negative health effects.
“The results of this study show that steroids and performance-enhancing substances remain a mystery to the American public,” Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, said in the release. “Our participation in this study is important as we educate thousands of high school students each year through our onsite and distance learning programs in Cooperstown. We believe the avenue to a cleaner society is in providing meaningful educational opportunities for those who set the example for the youth of today and tomorrow.”
The importance of the study shows that 64 percent of respondents believe high school boys are likely to use performance-enhancing substances, while 21 percent of respondents believe high school girls are likely to use performance-enhancing substances. The study also shows that only 17 percent of the American public believes that steroid use is a big problem among high school athletes.
“These numbers demonstrate the problem of steroid use is bordering on the level of an American tragedy,” Gene Monahan, former head athletic trainer for the New York Yankees, representing PBATS, said in the release.
The survey is the most recent output of the collaboration between the Taylor Hooton Foundation, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in providing educational programs and resources to inform and educate on the dangers of performance-enhancing substances. The organizations will also collaborate on national education events in 2013 and 2014.
Each of the participating organizations maintains its own education programs dedicated to various facets of healthy living programs for young people and athletes of all ages. The full survey is available on the websites of each of the three organizations – www.baseballhall.org/survey, taylorhooton.org and pbats.com.