Gender-affirming care leads to better mental health among trans people: study

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Transgender people who are able to receive gender-affirming surgery reported improved mental health outcomes, according to a new study published Wednesday. 

The study, published in JAMA Surgery found that overall, gender-affirming surgery was associated with a 42 percent reduction in psychological distress in transgender individuals, a 44 percent reduction in suicidal thoughts and a 35 percent reduction in tobacco smoking.

Those who were not yet able to undergo procedures to have their body reflect their gender identity were nearly twice as likely to report negative mental health symptoms and associated behaviors, the study noted. 

“This study adds to a growing body of evidence showing affirmation in all forms can be life-saving for trans and gender-diverse people,” said lead author Anthony Almazan, a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School, according to NBC News.

He added, “Policies that limit access to care can put lives at risk. Our evidence shows we should be expanding gender-affirming care, not limiting it.”

Results from the study come as a slew of state legislatures across the U.S. have introduced bills banning gender-affirming medical care, including puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries for transgender youth. 

LGBT advocates warn that passage of such legislation will have a harmful impact on transgender youth mental health.  

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Hill last month that when bills regarding transgender issues are proposed, calls to suicide hotlines spike. 

“In the past when states have floated anti-trans bills, we’ve seen calls to the trans lifeline as much as triple.” 

The results also add to other voices in the medical community, including The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association and the Endocrine Society who have stated that gender-affirming care has had a positive impact on mental health. 

The study included 27,715 respondents, about 81 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 44 years. The vast majority (82 percent) were white.

About 38 percent of respondents identified as transgender women, about 32 percent identified as transgender men and about 26 percent identified as nonbinary.

Data from the report was collected between August of 2015 and September of 2015 across 50 states, Washington, D.C., U.S. territories and U.S. military bases abroad, and analyzed between November of 2020 and January of 2021.

The studies on lower psychological distress, smoking and suicidal thoughts each had confidence intervals of 95 percent.

Tags gender-affirming surgery Mental health Transgender
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