Study Finds Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy Has Positive Effects

Gender-affirming health care has been in the headlines lately, but it's often misrepresented and misunderstood. One form of this care — gender-affirming hormone therapy — is particularly controversial, but a new study shows that this treatment is actually critically beneficial for those who require it.

Many people who are transgender — those whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth — experience gender dysphoria, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Gender dysphoria refers to significant psychological distress that comes with this dissonance. It often presents itself as a strong desire to be rid of primary sex characteristics and a strong desire to be treated as another gender. It usually begins in childhood, but for some, it develops after puberty or later. Transgender kids often experience bullying and discrimination, and transgender people are more prone to stigmatization, victimization, poor self-image, and high rates of mental health disorders.

Suicide rates are also significantly higher for transgender adolescents. According to a 2018 study published in Pediatrics, the rate of attempted suicide in transgender males is highest at 50.8%, followed by nonbinary adolescents at 41.8% and transgender females at 29.9%. This is much higher than the average for all adolescents, at nearly 14%.

The need to listen to transgender people

As an increasing number of transgender people seek gender-affirming treatment, researchers in Portugal have found that gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) has positive psychological and physiological effects for those who need it (via MedicalNewsToday). The March 2021 study included 142 participants who had been receiving GAHT for at least a year, with a median age of 25 years. Participants rated their satisfaction with GAHT based on multiple criteria, including self-esteem, body well-being, suicidal ideation, and social/familial relations. They reported a high level of satisfaction, with an average score of five out of six.

Endocrinologist Dr. Miguel Saraiva, the lead author of the study, presented his research at the European Congress of Endocrinology in May 2022. He emphasized the need to listen to transgender patients and educate ourselves about their needs (via MedicalNewsToday). Transgender people are not suffering from an illness, but rather just know who they are — they need support when they struggle to live in a body that doesn't fit this. Dr. Saraiva stressed the point that this research tells us that GAHT is not only life-changing, but life-saving.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.