Researchers revise findings of study into transgender mental health

Researchers behind an widely reported study into the mental health of transgender people in Sweden have revised their findings after scrutiny from peers raised questions about the study’s conclusions.

In their latest issue the American Journal of Psychiatry issued a correction, saying the conclusion in the original report that claimed people experiencing gender incongruence experienced a lower level of mental health treatment after they underwent gender reassignment surgery had been overstated.

The 2019 peer reviewed study was undertaken by Richard Bränström, an associate professor at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, and John Pachankis, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

The researchers used 10 years of medical data for the entire population of Sweden, and compared this with medical outcomes between 2005 and 2015 for transgender individuals in Sweden who had received a diagnosis of gender incongruence.

Initially the researchers concluded that subjects who had treatment for gender incongruence with hormone treatment hormone therapy alone did not show a significantly reduce the likelihood of mental health therapy visits and psychiatric medications. They claimed that for those who underwent surgery, however, the likelihood that they would receive mental health treatment for depression and anxiety disorders was reduced.

After the study was published it was widely debated with many researchers questioning the methodology used to draw the conclusions. After reviewing their work the researchers have now backtracked and revised their findings saying; “the results demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care visits or prescriptions or hospitalizations following suicide attempts in that comparison.”

The study did however show, that in the example of the Swedish population, people with gender incongruence do experience mental health challenges at a significantly higher rate than the general population. A separate study conducted by Western Australian researchers also reported that transgender youth experience higher levels of mental health challenges and higher rates of suicide ideation.

Critics of the current gender affirming model of treating transgender patients have highlighted the correction as proof that more research needs to be conducted into the benefits of surgery, puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

Graeme Watson

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