Transgender people who start hormones as teenagers rather than adults ‘have better mental health’

Odds of severe psychological distress were reduced by 222 per cent for those who began taking hormones in early adolescence

Laura Hampson
Wednesday 12 January 2022 19:00 GMT

Transgender people who start their hormones as teenagers have “far better” mental health than if they wait until adulthood, new research says.

Experts have found that transgender people who begin hormone treatment in adolescence had fewer suicidal thoughts, were less likely to experience major mental health disorders and had fewer problems with substance abuse than those who started hormones later in life.

The study, which was led by the Stanford University School of Medicine, gathered data from the largest-ever survey of US transgender adults where 27,715 people responded in 2015.

Researchers found that, as well as fewer mental health concerns when taking the drugs as teenagers, those who took the drugs at any age had better mental health than those who wanted them but had never received them.

Of the people surveyed, 21,598 reported they had received the hormones they wanted. Of these people, 119 began hormones at age 14 or 15; 362 at age 16 and 17 and 12,157 following their 18th birthday.

Some 8,860 people surveyed said they wanted but never received hormone therapy and acted as the control group for the study.

Odds of severe psychological distress were reduced by 222 per cent, 153 per cent and 81 per cent for those who began hormones in early adolescence, late adolescence and adulthood, respectively.

Odds of feeling suicidal in the previous year were 135 per cent lower in those who began hormones in early adolescence, 62 per cent lower in those who began in late adolescence and 21 per cent lower in those who began as adults, compared with the control group.

Dr Jack Turban, lead author on the study and expert in paediatric and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford Medicine, said: “This study is particularly relevant now because many state legislatures are introducing bills that would outlaw this kind of care for transgender youth.

“We are adding to the evidence base that shows why gender-affirming care is beneficial from a mental health perspective.”

In the UK, hormone drugs can only be given to people from the age of 16 who have been on puberty blockers for at least 12 months.

Last September, the UK Court of Appeal overturned a judgment that children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment were unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs.

Additional reporting by PA.

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