Mental health outcomes in transgender and nonbinary youths receiving gender-affirming care
Tordoff, D.M., Wanta, J.W., Collin, A., Stepney, C., Inwards-Breland, D.J., & Ahrens, K.
Objective To investigate changes in mental health over the first year of receiving gender-affirming care and whether initiation of puberty blockers (PBs) and gender-affirming hormones (GAHs) was associated with changes in depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
Design, Setting, and Participants This prospective observational cohort study was conducted at an urban multidisciplinary gender clinic among TNB adolescents and young adults seeking gender-affirming care from August 2017 to June 2018. Data were analyzed from August 2020 through November 2021.
Exposures Time since enrollment and receipt of PBs or GAHs.
Main Outcomes and Measures Mental health outcomes of interest were assessed via the Patient Health Questionnaire 9-item (PHQ-9) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item (GAD-7) scales, which were dichotomized into measures of moderate or severe depression and anxiety (ie, scores ≥10), respectively. Any self-report of self-harm or suicidal thoughts over the previous 2 weeks was assessed using PHQ-9 question 9. Generalized estimating equations were used to assess change from baseline in each outcome at 3, 6, and 12 months of follow-up. Bivariate and multivariable logistic models were estimated to examine temporal trends and investigate associations between receipt of PBs or GAHs and each outcome.
Results Among 104 youths aged 13 to 20 years (mean [SD] age, 15.8 [1.6] years) who participated in the study, there were 63 transmasculine individuals (60.6%), 27 transfeminine individuals (26.0%), 10 nonbinary or gender fluid individuals (9.6%), and 4 youths who responded “I don’t know” or did not respond to the gender identity question (3.8%). At baseline, 59 individuals (56.7%) had moderate to severe depression, 52 individuals (50.0%) had moderate to severe anxiety, and 45 individuals (43.3%) reported self-harm or suicidal thoughts. By the end of the study, 69 youths (66.3%) had received PBs, GAHs, or both interventions, while 35 youths had not received either intervention (33.7%). After adjustment for temporal trends and potential confounders, we observed 60% lower odds of depression (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.40; 95% CI, 0.17-0.95) and 73% lower odds of suicidality (aOR, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.11-0.65) among youths who had initiated PBs or GAHs compared with youths who had not. There was no association between PBs or GAHs and anxiety (aOR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.41, 2.51).
Conclusions and Relevance This study found that gender-affirming medical interventions were associated with lower odds of depression and suicidality over 12 months. These data add to existing evidence suggesting that gender-affirming care may be associated with improved well-being among TNB youths over a short period, which is important given mental health disparities experienced by this population, particularly the high levels of self-harm and suicide.