A groundbreaking clinical trial led by the University of Melbourne has uncovered the significant mental health benefits of timely gender-affirming testosterone therapy for transgender adults.
The research, conducted by the Trans Health Research Group at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the Department of Endocrinology at Austin Health and Equinox Gender Diverse Clinic at Thorne Harbour Health in Abbotsford, has far-reaching implications for the transgender community.
The trial comprised 62 transgender adults ranging in age from 18 to 70, all seeking the initiation of testosterone therapy. Under the Informed Consent model of care, participants were clinically evaluated, adhering to national guidelines.
This gender-affirming approach prioritizes respectful, shared decision-making, where healthcare providers support individuals in their gender journey by tailoring care to their unique needs.
This comprehensive approach includes the use of affirming language, referrals for social and mental health support, and in-depth education on the benefits and risks of hormone therapy to enable informed decision-making regarding their health.
Clinical Standards Were Followed During Testosterone Therapy
During the trial, half of the participants were promptly initiated on testosterone treatment following thorough clinical assessment by experienced clinicians. In contrast, the other half received standard care, which involved a conventional waiting period of three months before testosterone initiation.
This design allowed researchers to assess the effects of testosterone therapy over a three-month period in transgender individuals seeking gender affirmation.
The findings, published in the Journal of American Medical Association Network Open, demonstrate the profound impact of timely access to gender-affirming hormone therapy on the mental health of transgender individuals, who are often at greater risk of experiencing mental health challenges.
Dr. Brendan Nolan, a PhD candidate and the lead author of the study, underscored the difficulties transgender individuals face in accessing gender-affirming therapy in Australia. He noted that these barriers have been associated with increased suicide attempts within the transgender community.
Dr. Nolan stated, “In this trial, we found that there was a significant decrease in gender dysphoria in individuals who began testosterone treatment immediately. We also report a clinically significant decrease in depression and an over 50% decrease in participants with suicidality (the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts) with immediate testosterone therapy.”
Associate Professor Ada Cheung, the senior author of the research, emphasized the potential impact of these findings on clinical care.
She noted that this open-label randomized trial is the first to demonstrate that gender-affirming hormone therapy effectively reduces depression, suicidal ideation, and gender dysphoria in transgender individuals seeking gender-affirming treatment.
It is well-documented that transgender individuals in Australia face disproportionately high rates of negative mental health outcomes compared to the general population. The scarcity of healthcare providers willing to offer care and lengthy waiting lists at existing clinics exacerbate the issue.
Associate Professor Cheung asserted, “Providing gender-affirming hormone therapy has immense benefits on reducing suicide risk and improving the mental health of trans people.
This is critical given the alarming rates seen in the trans community in Australia. Improving awareness about the benefits of hormonal therapy in trans people and better supporting GPs to provide gender-affirming care will be lifesaving for many.”
The study underscores the urgent need for improved access to gender-affirming care and highlights the transformative potential of such treatment on the mental well-being of transgender individuals.
By reducing barriers to care and raising awareness about the positive impact of gender-affirming hormone therapy, healthcare providers can play a pivotal role in improving the lives and mental health outcomes of transgender individuals in Australia and beyond.