A September 2020 study published in Pediatrics demonstrates that trans and gender non-conforming young people are less likely to experience mental health issues if they have early access to gender-affirming health care. The study, titled Mental Health and Timing of Gender-Affirming Care, found that 30% of trans people who had access to suitable care at a younger age reported a diagnosis of depression, compared to 46% in those who did not have inclusive healthcare available to them. It also found 9% of the younger group had attempted suicide as opposed to 17% of people in the older group.
Dr Julia C. Sorbara, the lead author of the study, said: “The findings highlight that timely access to gender-affirming medical care is really important for youth with gender dysphoria”. She also pointed out that puberty is a difficult time for trans children: “A major part of puberty is developing physical changes, and for youth with gender dysphoria, they begin to develop physical changes that are not in keeping with the gender they identify”.
Dr Sorbara, a pediatric endocrinologist, found 75% of young people who attended her clinic reported mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Mental health issues are particularly prevalent in the trans community; Psychology Today stated trans people in the US were nine times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to cisgender people, which it attributes the discrimination and abuse some of them ‘face on a daily basis’.
Sorbara hopes the study will support efforts to ensure that gender-affirming healthcare is readily available to LGBTQ+ youth.