Transgender adults often face serious depression when they are unable to get the medical support they need. Now, a new study provides evidence that early access to hormone therapy may actually save lives. Here is the full story.
Strong Trans Supporters
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.
They Need Medical Help
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.
It’s Not an Easy Road
And while they wait for that support, many trans people struggle with their mental health.
It Can Be Deadly
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.
Doctors Are Reluctant
The Trans Health Research Group had seen similar tendencies in their patients over the years, but they had also noticed a general reluctance to prescribe hormone therapy.
No Strong Evidence
According to Ada Cheung, an associate professor, one objection to the hormones in the medical community was that there wasn’t much evidence they actually helped.
They Wanted to Change That
So Cheung and her colleagues set out to find that evidence.
It Was a Challenge
Creating a control group proved to be a challenge, though, because that required a set of trans people who would not receive hormone therapy.
They Would Be in Danger
Withholding the help those people needed would be cruel and maybe put their lives in danger.
They Got Early Treatment
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.
No Change for Them
Then the control group became a set of people who remained on the waiting list but who were not artificially denied treatment. They just had to continue waiting as they already had been.
They Had to Dig Deep
Each of the 64 people selected for the study had to fill out a survey before the work began. Then, they were questioned again 3 months later.
Their Feelings Mattered
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, published in the Journal of American Medical Association Network Open, were dramatic.
Better off Dead?
According to Cheung, one of the key issues they were trying to address with the study was “suicidal ideation.” Basically, that amounts to subjects having thoughts that they’d be better off dead than alive.
More Than Half Improved
Among those subjects who had suicidal thoughts before the study, 52% who received hormone therapy no longer had those thoughts after three months.
Their Despair Remained
On the other hand, only 3% of the control group (those who didn’t take hormones) no longer had suicidal thoughts after the study.
Hormones Save Lives
Cheung points to these results as clear evidence that having early access to hormone therapy can literally be a life-saver for transgender people.
Study Confirms Suspicions
This study just confirms what Dr. Fiona Bisshop has been seeing for a long time.
A Long-Standing Problem
Working with the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health for more than a decade, Bisshop has witnessed the mental anguish of countless trans people who couldn’t get the treatment they needed.
Doctors Need to Step Up
Bisshop hopes this study, and those like it, will encourage more general practitioners to prescribe hormones to their trans patients.
Waiting Doesn’t Help
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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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.