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Study shows positive psychological effects of hormone therapy in transgender individuals

A study finds that transgender individuals may experience significant improvement in psychological functioning after as little as three to six months of hormone therapy, with improved quality of life reported within 12 months of initiating therapy.

Transgender individuals may experience significant improvement in psychological functioning after as little as three to six months of hormone therapy, with improved quality of life reported within 12 months of initiating therapy by both female-to-male (FTM) and male-to-female (MTF) transgender individuals, according to an article published in Transgender Health, a new peer-reviewed open access journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

In “A Systematic Review of the Effects of Hormone Therapy on Psychological Functioning and Quality of Life in Transgender Individuals”, Jaclyn White Hughto and Sari Reisner reviewed the evidence from published studies of transgender adults treated with hormone therapy for gender identity disorder.  Three uncontrolled prospective cohort studies, enrolling 247 transgender adults (180 MTF, 67 FTM) initiating hormone therapy for the treatment of gender identity disorder (prior diagnostic term for gender dysphoria), were identified. The studies measured exposure to hormone therapy and subsequent changes in mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety) and quality of life outcomes at follow-up. Two studies showed a significant improvement in psychological functioning at three to six months and 12 months compared with baseline after initiating hormone therapy. The third study showed improvements in quality of life outcomes 12 months after initiating hormone therapy for FTM and MTF participants; however, only MTF participants showed a statistically significant increase in general quality of life after initiating hormone therapy.

According to the authors, “changing one’s physical characteristics through hormone therapy is considered medically necessary for many transgender individuals and may relieve the psychological distress associated with gender dysphoria, reduce psychiatric comorbidities, and improve patients’ quality of life.”

For Hughto and Reisner, “given that many transgender people may never access sex reassignment surgery, it was important to study the effects of hormones alone with regard to mental health and quality of life outcomes.”

Meanwhile, for editor in chief Robert Garofalo MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and director, center for gender, sexuality and HIV prevention at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, “this work highlights a healthcare disparity affecting transgender people — depression and anxiety — and offers a potential therapeutic option to help eliminate or reduce it: access to hormone therapy. It sets the bar for future research to be conducted in this area, which is sorely needed and may help some clinicians caring for transgender people.”

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