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Study: Gender-affirming hormone therapy linked to lower rates of depression, suicide with youth

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The Trevor Project on Tuesday published a new peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Adolescent Health that found gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) is significantly related to lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth.

The organization said that the findings underscore the need to expand access to best-practice, gender-affirming medical care, as is currently prescribed by doctors across the country and recommended by the major medical and mental health associations.

The article, titled “Association of Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy with Depression, Thoughts of Suicide, and Attempted Suicide among Transgender and Nonbinary Youth,” is the first large-scale study to examine hormone therapy among transgender and nonbinary youth, based on a sample of more than 9,000 who provided data on GAHT. 

Other findings include:

  • Half of all transgender and nonbinary young people said they were not using GAHT but would like to, 36% were not interested in receiving GAHT, and 14% were already receiving GAHT. On average, the young people sampled were just over 17 and a half years old.
  • Young people receiving GAHT reported a lower likelihood of experiencing recent depression and considering suicide compared to those who wanted GAHT but did not receive it. Specifically for young people under age 18, receiving GAHT was associated with nearly 40% lower odds of recent depression and of a past-year suicide attempt
  • Parent support for their child’s gender identity had a strong relationship with receipt of GAHT, with nearly 80% of those who received GAHT reporting they had at least one parent who supported their gender identity.
  • Youth of color had lower rates of accessing GAHT when they wanted it compared to white youth.  

“The Trevor Project is proud to publish the first large-scale study to examine hormone therapy among transgender and nonbinary youth. 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,” said Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project. “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.” 

“This study emphasizes the potential benefits of gender-affirming hormone therapy as a mechanism to reduce feelings of gender dysphoria and minority stress among transgender and nonbinary youth — thereby working to improve mental health outcomes and prevent suicide,” said Dr. Amy Green, vice-president of research. “These data should serve as a call to action to resist blanket bans on gender-affirming medical care and to invest in more research on this topic so that youth and their families can make evidence-informed decisions regarding care.” 

The study builds upon research that demonstrates how transgender and nonbinary youth face elevated risk for depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempting suicide compared with youth who are cisgender and straight, including cisgender members of the LGBTQ community. A 2020 study, “Understanding the Mental Health of Transgender and Nonbinary Youth,” published by The Trevor Project’s researchers in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that transgender and nonbinary youth were 2 to 2.5 times as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to their cisgender LGBQ peers. Further, Trevor’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 reported attempting suicide — compared to 32% of cisgender LGBQ youth who seriously considered suicide and 1 in 10 who attempted suicide in the past year.  

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