Node Smith, ND

A recent study from Northwestern Medicine showed that more than 50 percent of sexually active bisexual and gay teenage boys – 14 -17 years old – utilized adult “hookup” apps to meet male sexual partners and friends.1 Apps referred to in the study specifically were, Grindr and Scruff. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and may be the first study to look at the use of sex and dating app use among adolescent bisexual and gay boys.

Apps: Grindr and Scruff

These apps, such as Grindr and Scruff, give users a virtual networking arena that is exclusive to gay and bisexual men. This is meant to circumvent the need to question a potential friend or partner’s sexual orientation.

The study points out that these online dating tools may be very appealing to gay and bisexual teenagers, who may not be as open about their sexual identity as older men, and who also have a much smaller dating pool compared with their heterosexual friends and schoolmates. Individuals who are trying to figure out dating and sex with same-gender partners may be drawn to the anonymous nature of these apps.

Hookup apps pose some risks, but there are positive ways these apps are helpful

“While this study points out that hookup apps pose some risks, we were happy to learn that there are many positive ways youth use these apps that help them feel more confident and comfortable in their sexuality,” said Kathryn Macapagal, research assistant professor of medical social sciences at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “They can better learn about ways to protect their sexual health and feel less alone, which is important for gay and bisexual teens who are much more likely to feel isolated or depressed because of their sexual orientation or identity.”

Additional Findings of the Study

The study also found that teenage boys who used apps were more likely to utilize health services, such as HIV testing. Teenage boys account for nearly two-thirds of HIV infections in adolescents in America, but sexual education programs do not specifically address this risk group. Understanding how these apps are used, and why teens are using them may help tailor HIV education programs around this population.


  1. Macapagal K, et al.Hookup App Use, Sexual Behavior, and Sexual Health Among Adolescent Men Who Have Sex With Men in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health , Volume 62 , Issue 6 , 708 – 715
Image Copyright: <a href=’’>olesiabilkei / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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