24 October 2019

Gender reassignment surgery does bring mental health benefits

According to new research, people who underwent gender reassignment surgery were less likely to reach out for mental health care services in the first year after their surgery.

Transgender men and women who undergo gender reassignment surgery are much less likely to need mental health services later, new research suggests.

The researchers, Richard Branstrom and John Pachankis of the Yale School of Public Health, said the finding "lends support to the decision to provide gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals who seek them".

Mental health care services

The conclusion is based on the tracking of more than 2 500 Swedish patients who were diagnosed with gender identity disorder at some point between 2005 and 2015.

In that timeframe, just over 70% of the patients were offered hormone treatment, while almost half (48%) underwent gender-affirming surgical treatment. Almost all of the surgical patients (97%) also underwent hormone treatment. Less than one-third opted for neither treatment.

The investigators found that those who underwent surgery were 8% less likely to reach out for mental health care services in the first year after surgery. Those services included mood and anxiety disorder treatment, antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescriptions, and/or hospitalisation following a suicide attempt.

The declining trend among post-op patients continued unabated for a decade, dipping an additional 8% each year, the findings showed. No similar benefit was linked to undergoing hormone treatment alone, however.

Not a cure-all

The findings are important given the greater overall need for mental health services in this group, compared to the general population, the researchers stressed in a news release from the American Psychiatric Association.

For example, these patients are roughly six times more likely to seek care for a mood or anxiety disorder. They are also more than three times as likely to seek prescriptions for antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication.

However, gender reassignment surgery did not serve as a cure-all. In fact, the study authors warned that even after surgery, transgender patients remained more in need of mental health services than their general population peers.

The findings were published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Image credit: iStock


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