Among young people with gender dysphoria, medical gender-transition treatment is not associated with a lower rate of death by suicide or less demand for psychiatric treatment, according to preliminary findings from an analysis of decades of Finnish health data.
Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, a professor of adolescent psychiatry and the chief psychiatrist at Tampere University Hospital in Finland, presented preliminary findings from her team’s study of data regarding gender dysphoric youth at the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine’s (SEGM) conference this week in New York City.
SEGM is a coalition of clinicians and researchers who share concerns about what the group characterizes as a “lack of quality evidence for the use of hormonal and surgical interventions as first-line treatment for young people with gender dysphoria.” The conference was attended by about 75 people, including academics, physicians, mental health professionals, lawyers, parent advocates and journalists. They heard from an array of speakers who examined the scientific evidence concerning the care and treatment of gender dysphoric youths.
During the aughts, Finland was among the first nations to adopt what is known as the “Dutch protocol” for treating gender dysphoria in minors with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Like many other nations, Finland has seen a sharp rise in recent years in gender dysphoria diagnoses in young people. A disproportionate share of these youths were designated as female on their original birth certificate.
Finland, Sweden and England’s health authorities ultimately conducted systematic reviews of the scientific evidence supporting such medical treatment of gender dysphoria in children. The reviews found the evidence was of low quality or otherwise inconclusive. Consequently, these three nations, along with Norway, have sharply reduced the availability of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for gender dysphoric youths. Instead, they have established psychological counseling as first-line treatment for this vulnerable population.
“Medical gender reassignment does not resolve or diminish the risk for severe psychiatric morbidity,” Dr. Kaltiala said.