Study tracks gender-affirming care for transgender teens

[April 8, 2022: Editor's note: Language has been updated below to more directly reflect the findings as reported in the study.]

UW researchers recently found that gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adolescents likely mitigated rates of depression and suicidality.

 In study findings published in JAMA Network Open, the investigators reported that adolescents and young adults who received puberty blockers or gender-affirming hormones had 60% lower odds of depression and 73% lower odds of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. They received their care at Seattle Children’s Gender Clinic.

“We took a group of 104 people aged roughly 13 to 20 and we tracked them over the course of a year,” said Arin Collin, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We would give them either puberty blockers or gender-affirming hormones, based on patient preference and parental consent, and we just tracked how their depression did.”

Puberty blockers are prescription medications that temporarily pause natural hormone production that begins with puberty. Collins explained that the hormones used in this study included testosterone or estrogen, which are used to induce an appropriate puberty consistent with the adolescent’s gender identity.

In an essay about their study, Collin and fellow author Diana Tordoff, a UW Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health, said that 750,000 to 1.1 million adolescents in the United States identify as transgender or nonbinary. Mounting research indicates that transgender youth suffer from adverse mental-health symptoms.

“Gender-affirming care is lifesaving care,” said Collin. “This care does have a great deal of power in walking back baseline adverse mental-health outcomes that the transgender population overwhelmingly [experiences] at a very young age.”

Learn more about gender-affirming care at UW Medicine.

UW Medicine