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For trans people, gender-affirming hair removal linked with improved mental health, quality of life

Gender-affirming hair removal (GAHR) procedures, including electrolysis and laser hair removal, are desired by nearly 90% of transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) people. As such, GAHR is associated with improved mental health and quality of life.

Photo by Kamaji Ogino from Pexels.com

Fact: Gender-affirming hair removal (GAHR) procedures, including electrolysis and laser hair removal, are desired by nearly 90% of transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) people. Sadly, there is still limited evidence of the mental health benefits of this particular gender-affirming medical care that could address the mental health burdens of TGD populations.

This is according to a study – “Association Between Gender-Affirming Hair Removal and Mental Health Outcomes” by Michelle S. Lee, Anthony N. Almazan, Vinod E. Nambudiri, et al – published in JAMA Dermatology.

For this study, the researchers conducted secondary analysis of the 2015 US Transgender Survey (USTS), a cross-sectional, nonprobability survey of 27,715 US TGD adults disseminated by community outreach from August 19, 2015, to September 21, 2015. Respondents assigned male sex at birth were asked, “have you had or do you want any of the health care listed below for gender transition?” for various gender-affirming procedures, including “hair removal/electrolysis.” Five binary mental health outcomes were examined: past-month severe psychological distress (K6 score ≥13),5 past-month binge alcohol use (≥5 drinks on 1 occasion), past-year tobacco smoking, past-year suicidal ideation, and past-year suicide attempt.

Of 27,715 USTS respondents, 11,857 (42.8%) reported being assigned male sex at birth. Of these respondents, 4,927 (41.6%) had undergone hair removal, whereas 5652 (47.7%) desired hair removal but had not yet received it.

After adjustment for sociodemographic factors and other gender-affirming care, GAHR was associated with:

  • lower odds of past-month severe psychological distress (95% confidence intervals/CI)
  • past-year smoking (95% CI)
  • past-year suicidal ideation (95% CI)

There was no significant association between GAHR and past-month binge alcohol use or past-year suicide attempts. Exposure to GAHR was not significantly associated with lifetime suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, alcohol use, or smoking.

According to the researchers, “this… study demonstrat(ed) associations between GAHR and improved mental health outcomes, including decreased psychological distress, past-year smoking, and past-year suicidal ideation.” As such, it also demonstrated “that GAHR is associated with improved mental health and quality of life.”

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