Australian study finds gender-affirming care halves suicidality among trans people

Activists wave a trans flag during protests.

A new landmark study has found that access to gender-affirming healthcare significantly reduces rates of depression, gender dysphoria, and suicidality among transgender people.

While it’s no secret that providing gender-affirming care to transgender individuals who ask for it can greatly benefit their well-being, an increase in transphobic rhetoric and bans on gender-affirming healthcare has prompted thorough medical studies into the impact of such care.

Now, brand new research conducted in Melbourne, Australia, has found that allowing transgender people to access the care they’re after can reduce suicidality by a stunning 55 per cent.

As part of the first-ever randomized controlled trial (RCT) on gender-affirming care, researchers took 64 transgender and gender-diverse adults who had been looking to start testosterone therapy and randomly split them into a treatment group and a control group.

While the treatment group was allowed to begin hormone therapy that week, the control group waited three months for their treatment to begin.

A picture of two trans flags waving in an open area.
The RCT trial noted a 55 per cent drop in suicidality among transgender individuals who received gender-affirming care. (Getty Images)

Before the study began, both groups were evaluated on depression, gender dysphoria, and suicidality. Three months later, the two groups were evaluated again.

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RCTs for medical care can often be hard to conduct due to practical and ethical concerns. However, researchers of this study found a way to hold an RCT for this study by incorporating a shorter follow-up period. Rather than giving the control group a placebo drug, or no treatment at all, they were simply given a longer wait time.

The results showed a notable decrease in gender dysphoria, depression, and – most significantly – suicidality.

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The group that received gender-affirming care right away saw a 55 per cent reduction in suicidality compared to a 5 per cent drop within the control group.

Depression scores in the treatment group decreased by half, while gender dysphoria rates also significantly decreased.

Breaking down their findings, researchers Brendan J. Nolan MBBS, Sav Zwickl, PhD, and Peter Locke wrote: “There was a statistically significant decrease in gender dysphoria in individuals with immediate [access to gender-affirming care] compared with delayed initiation of testosterone therapy. 

“A clinically significant decrease in depression and a decrease in suicidality also occurred with immediate testosterone therapy.

“The findings of this trial suggest that testosterone therapy significantly decreases gender dysphoria, depression, and suicidality in transgender and gender-diverse individuals desiring testosterone therapy.”

Table from a study on testosterone therapy in transgender adults
The results showed a notable decrease in gender dysphoria, depression, and – most significantly – suicidality. (Jama Network)

Of course, this isn’t the first time that research has shown significant drops in depression and suicide rates among transgender individuals who receive gender-affirming care.

A 2022 medical study showed that young transgender people who have access to puberty blockers are 73 per cent less at risk of suicide and report improved well-being.

But, as anti-trans activists advocate for further bans on gender-affirming care, one of the key arguments is that the evidence in support of the care isn’t up to scratch with GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) standards. 

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So research like this landmark RCT is so significant to the transgender community and its allies as the fight for their healthcare rights rumbles on.

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