Gender-Affirming Care Reduces Depression in Transgender Youth

What’s New in Psychology?

Gender-Affirming Care Reduces Depression in Transgender Youth

Jim Windell


           Transgender youth, that is, young people whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned to them at birth, make up approximately two percent of the population and number anywhere from about 750,000 to 1.1 million adolescents in the U.S.

          Unfortunately, many of these transgender (often referred to as trans or nonbinary) youth experience high levels of mental health problems. A 2021 study found that as many as 72% of trans youth were depressed and half had seriously considered suicide. These symptoms, experts say, are mainly due to anti-transgender stigma, discrimination and lack of family or peer support.

          But, a new study, recently released in Pediatrics, suggests that transgender youth on puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones have lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.

            The authors of the study, Diana Tordoff and Arin Collin and their associates conducted the study in collaboration with Seattle Children’s Hospital Gender Clinic.

          The intent of the study was to examine the mental health effects of puberty blockers and hormone therapy. For this examination, the researchers followed 104 trans and nonbinary youth ages 13 to 20 during their first year of gender-affirming care. After one year, Tordoff and her colleagues found that young people who began puberty blockers or gender-affirming hormones were 60% less likely to be depressed and 73% less likely to have thoughts about self-harm or suicide compared to youth who had not started these medications.

           Also, the researchers discovered that young people who were unable to start these medications within three to six months of their first appointment with a medical provider had a two- to threefold increase in depression and suicidal thoughts. These findings, Tordoff and Collin report in The Conversation, a website for research-oriented articles, suggest that delays in prescribing hormones and puberty blockers may worsen mental health symptoms for trans youth.

           Puberty blockers are medications that delay puberty. By temporarily stopping the body from making the hormones that lead to puberty-related changes, young people and their families are given time to pause and make health decisions. Puberty blockers have been used for  more than 30 years to treat young people with puberty that starts too early, a condition referred to precocious puberty. On the other hand, gender-affirming hormone therapy involves medications, like testosterone and estrogen that enable trans youth to experience a puberty appropriately aligned with their gender. Many scientific and clinical societies have found puberty blockers and gender-afforming hormone therapy to be both safe and effective for transgender people. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Medical Association endorse access to gender-affirming care specifically for trans youth.

           Despite the acknowledged benefits of puberty blockers and hormone therapy, many trans youth face significant barriers in accessing gender-affirming care. And only one in five young people who need hormones have access to them.

           Some states tried to intentionally block treatment for transgender youth by passing anti-gender legislation or by criminalizing gender-affirming care for trans youth. Typically, banning gender-affirming care will have immediate and long-term negative effects on the well-being of trans youth and their families. Legislation prohibiting such care tends to increase the stigma and discrimination these young people face while, at the same time, denying them access to critical life-saving and evidence-based health care. This latest study strongly suggests that timely access to gender-affirming care saves trans youth lives.

             To read the original article, find it with this reference:

Tordoff DM, Wanta JW, Collin A, Stepney C, Inwards-Breland DJ, & Ahrens K. (2022). Mental Health Outcomes in Transgender and Nonbinary Youths Receiving Gender-Affirming Care. Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, 5(2):e220978. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.0978


Share this post:

Comments on "Gender-Affirming Care Reduces Depression in Transgender Youth"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment