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Study finds hormone therapy lowers suicide risk in transgender adolescents

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Story at a glance

  • Transgender youth are much less likely to experience depression or consider suicide when they receive gender-affirming hormone therapy, a new study has found.
  • In people younger than 18, hormone therapy was associated with nearly 40 percent lower odds of recent depression or a suicide attempt in the last year.
  • Gender-affirming care can include hormone therapy, puberty blockers, hair removal, voice modification and “top” and “bottom” surgeries.

Receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy significantly reduces the risk of suicide and depression in transgender youth, according to new research.

Published Tuesday in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study by researchers at the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention group, was based on a sample of more than 9,000 transgender and nonbinary youth ages 13 to 24 who participated in an online survey last year.

Young people receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy reported a lower likelihood of experiencing recent depression and considering suicide compared to those who wanted treatment but did not receive it, according to the study.

In young people under the age of 18, hormone therapy was associated with nearly 40 percent lower odds of recent depression or a suicide attempt in the last year.


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“It’s clear that gender-affirming care has the potential to reduce rates of depression and suicide attempts while banning this vital care and exposing young people to harmful political rhetoric can cause real harm,” Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, said in a statement. “It’s critical that all transgender and nonbinary youth across the country have access to medical care that is affirming, patient-centered, and evidence-based.”

More than 20 states this year have introduced bills seeking to block access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Only one state — Arkansas — has passed a law banning gender-affirming health care for transgender minors, but a federal judge in July temporarily blocked it from taking effect, according to NBC News.

Gender-affirming interventions include hormone therapy, puberty blockers, hair removal, voice modification and “top” and “bottom” surgeries, where breast tissue and genitalia are reconstructed. Some transgender and nonbinary people opt to receive these treatments to align their physical body with their gender identity. 

Half of transgender and nonbinary youth in the Trevor Project study said they were not receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy but would like to, 36 percent said they were not interested and 14 percent said they were already receiving it.

Youth of color had much lower rates of accessing gender-affirming services when they wanted them compared to young people who were white, according to the study. Accessibility was also impacted by parental support, and 80 percent of youth who received hormone therapy said at least one parent supported their gender identity.

On average, young people sampled were 17-and-a half years old, according to the study. According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, it’s not recommended that genital surgery be carried out prior to reaching the “legal age of majority,” which in most countries is 18.

But other studies have found that receiving gender-affirming medical care earlier in life is associated with a lower risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

A study published last year in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded transgender people who received puberty blockers during adolescence had a lower risk of suicidal ideation as adults.


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