Study Corrected: Transgender Hormones and Surgeries Offer No Mental Health Benefits

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The American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) has released a correction to a 2019 Swedish study which drew as its primary conclusion that individuals who claim to be transgender experience mental health benefits following gender-affirming surgeries.

An article at the Public Discourse by family physician Dr. Andre Van Mol of the American College of Pediatricians, endocrinologist Dr. Michael Laidlaw, and psychiatrists Dr. Miriam Grossman and Dr. Paul McHugh noted the authors of the original study retracted its conclusion after numerous requests for a reanalysis of the data led to the corrected findings.

After reanalysis, the Swedish study’s conclusion was that neither “gender-affirming hormone treatment” nor “gender-affirming surgery” decreased the need for mental health services of those claiming to be transgender.

The Public Discourse authors observed what led to the retraction of the study’s conclusion.

The problem of “irreproducibility” of scientific studies is perhaps at its worst “in studies of people who claim to have a mismatch between their sex and their internal sense of being male or female,” the physicians wrote.

One specific issue that leads to irreproducibility is “loss to follow-up.” The Public Discourse writers observed the Swedish study researchers only used three outcomes to measure follow-up care: prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, healthcare visits for mood or anxiety disorders, and post-suicide attempt hospitalizations.

They explained:

In terms of follow-up care, the authors only measured three outcomes as listed above. Overlooked were key data of completed suicides, healthcare visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations for the litany of other medical or psychological diagnoses potentially related to gender-affirming treatments. Such information was available through Sweden’s multiple registry databases, so why not use it? These omissions suggested cherry-picking data in order to obtain the desired results.

The physicians observed findings from another Swedish study from 2011 – one they described as “perhaps the best of its kind.” When followed out past ten years, that study draws the conclusion that the group of participants with “reassigned” sex had 19 times the rate of completed suicides and almost three times the rate of death and in-patient psychiatric care due to any cause, when compared with the general population.

“This has been a win for patients insofar as sex-reassignment surgery has been demoted from improving mental health to having no effect,” the Public Discourse authors wrote.

McHugh, in particular, the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, ended sex reassignment surgeries at Johns Hopkins Medical School in the wake of a study that found patients undergoing the surgeries showed no improvement in their mental or social health.

The authors observed faulty studies are often cited by transgender industry advocates as evidence why parents should allow children and adolescents to take puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and even have transgender surgeries such as double mastectomies:

These unethical surgeries are receiving funding by the very NIH [National Institutes of Health] that claims to be working to correct problems of irreproducibility. These experiments are beyond reproducibility problems: they are ethical failures by which doctors cause long-term harm to children and adolescents, all based on political activism supported by faulty science.

“Our team believes that many of the pro-transition studies we have read fare no better,” the Public Discourse authors concluded. “Fad medicine is bad medicine, and gender-anxious people deserve better.”


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