Two-thirds of transgender teens suffer from depression, and trans teens have high rates of self-harm and eating disorders, according to a study published in a special supplemental section of the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
The retrospective chart review titled "Psychiatric Co-Morbidities, Sexual Orientation, and Impact of Therapeutic Interventions in a Gender Non-Conforming Pediatric Practice" studied the medical files of 158 transgender adolescents who sought care at a pediatric endocrinology clinic in Miami, and used data on demographics and clinical characteristics obtained from electronic records. Those studied included 107 (67.7 percent) trans males, 47 (29.7 percent) trans females, and four (2.5 percent) who identified as nonbinary.
Lead researcher Veronica Figueredo, MD, of Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, noted that 66.5 percent of the transgender teen patients reviewed suffered from depression. Males were more likely to consider suicide than females (70.1 percent versus 49 percent), and males also suffered higher rates of comorbidity (84.1 percent versus 66 percent). Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two or more conditions.
Health professionals and activists have often pointed out that trans teens struggle with mental health issues more than their cisgender counterparts, but the new study provides further confirmation.
An earlier Pew study indicated that roughly 20 percent of all adolescents study suffered from depression at some point and that 13 percent suffered a major depressive episode in the prior 12 months. The Mayo Clinic defines a major depressive episode as a serious form of depression that is "more than just a bout of the blues" and results in a "persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest" that results in a person having difficulty with doing normal daily activities and even the belief that life is not worth living.
The study reported in Endocrine Society found that after depression, the most observed psychological conditions were anxiety (33.5 percent), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (10.1 percent), bipolar disorder (1.9 percent), bulimia (1.3 percent), anorexia nervosa (0.6 percent), and post-traumatic stress disorder (0.6 percent). Self-cutting was more common among males.
Researchers also found transgender teens experienced significant improvement in gender dysphoria after starting hormone therapy.
"An increasing number of transgender youths are seeking therapeutic options to change their bodies and match their gender identity," Figueredo said.