Transgender adults often face severe depression when they cannot get the necessary medical support. A new study provides evidence that early access to hormone therapy may save lives. Here is the whole story.
Researchers and physicians from the Trans Health Research Group at the University of Melbourne in Australia work to support trans health across a broad spectrum of people.
At any given time, the clinic has a long list of transgender people waiting for the hormones they need to live the lives they want.
And while they wait for that support, many trans people struggle with their mental health.
A 2021 survey of trans people across Australia found that 73% of those who responded had a history of depression. About two-thirds suffered from anxiety, and more than 40% had attempted suicide.
The Trans Health Research Group had seen similar tendencies in their patients over the years. However, they had also noticed a general reluctance to prescribe hormone therapy.
According to Ada Cheung, an associate professor, one objection to the hormones in the medical community was that there wasn’t much evidence they helped.
So Cheung and her colleagues set out to find that evidence.
Creating a control group proved to be a challenge, though, because that required a set of trans people who would not receive hormone therapy.
Withholding the help those people needed would be cruel and possibly endanger their lives.
So, instead, the researchers arranged for a set of trans patients on their waiting list to receive hormone therapy earlier than they would have otherwise.
Then, the control group became a set of people who remained on the waiting list but were not artificially denied treatment. They just had to continue waiting as they already had been.
Each of the 64 people selected for the study had to complete a survey before the work began. Then, they were questioned again three months later.
The goal of the questioning was to gauge how the participants were feeling about their lives. For example, were they depressed or feeling suicidal?
The results were dramatic and published in the Journal of American Medical Association Network Open.
According to Cheung, one of the key issues they were trying to address with the study was “suicidal ideation.” That amounts to subjects thinking they’d be better off dead than alive.
Among those subjects who had suicidal thoughts before the study, 52% who received hormone therapy no longer had those thoughts after three months.
On the other hand, only 3% of the control group (those who didn’t take hormones) no longer had suicidal thoughts after the study.
Cheung points to these results as clear evidence that early access to hormone therapy can be a lifesaver for transgender people.
This study confirms what Dr. Fiona Bisshop has been seeing for a long time.
Working with the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health for over a decade, Bisshop has witnessed the mental anguish of countless trans people who couldn’t get the treatment they needed.
Bisshop hopes this study, and those like it will encourage more general practitioners to prescribe hormones to their trans patients.
Because, by sending them all to the same few clinics, the wait for treatment only grows. And so does the mental distress.
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Source: The Guardian2023-09-26T07:11:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd