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Published: 2019-10-07 15:42 | Updated: 2019-10-08 14:10

Transgender individuals’ mental health improved after gender-affirming surgery

Transgender individuals who underwent gender-affirming surgery were less likely to seek mental health treatment or attempt suicide in the years following the procedure, according to a study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Yale School of Public Health published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Richard Bränström, senior researcher at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

The study examined 10 years of medical data from the entire Swedish population, including more than 2,600 transgender individuals. Of those individuals, about 70 percent received hormone treatment and nearly half, 48 percent, had gender-affirming surgery. Nearly all of those who had surgery also received hormone treatment. Less than a third, 29 percent, received no treatment.

For individuals who underwent surgery, the likelihood that they would receive mental health treatment for depression and anxiety disorders was reduced by 8 percent for every year since the operation. No significant reduction in depression or anxiety disorders was associated with gender-affirming hormone therapy since initiation.

According to the researchers, the findings lend support to providing gender-affirming surgeries to those transgender individuals who seek them.

The study also found that compared with the general population, transgender individuals were:

  • six times more likely to have problems with mood and anxiety disorders
  • more than three times as likely to be prescribed antidepressants or antianxiety medications
  • more than six times as likely to have been hospitalised after a suicide attempt.

“Despite the reductions in mental health care following gender-affirming surgery, the prevalence of mental health treatment for transgender individuals continued to exceed that of the general population,” says Richard Bränström, senior researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. “The data identify a clear need for expanding mental health support and other treatment options for this increasingly visible segment of the global population.”

The study was partly financed by grants from the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.

Publication

Reduction in Mental Health Treatment Utilization Among Transgender Individuals After Gender-Affirming Surgeries: A Total Population Study,” R Bränström, J Pachankis, The American Journal of Psychiatry, Oct. 4, 2019, DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19010080

This article is based on press releases from Yale School of Public Health and American Psychiatric Association.