Kids who join youth gangs are more prone to mental health problems, depression and suicidal thoughts. The feelings get worse if they do not leave the gangs.
Gang membership is associated with greater levels of depression as well as a 67 percent increase in suicidal thoughts and a 104 percent increase in suicide attempts.
"Youth who join a gang are much more likely to have mental health issues and then being in the gang actually makes it worse," said Chris Melde from Michigan State University.
Several youth -- particularly from poor families -- join gangs to escape hardship for money, protection, status or a sense of belonging they are unable to get at home, school or elsewhere.
However, they found no discernible benefits as the rate of substance abuse and violent victimisation only increased after kids joined gangs.
"If you think of gang membership as a coping mechanism, it doesn't work," Melde stated, adding that it does not act as an antidepressant for youth.