Are gender-affirming surgeries associated with better mental health outcomes among transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people?
In this secondary analysis of the 2015 US Transgender Survey (n = 27 715), TGD people with a history of gender-affirming surgery had significantly lower odds of past-month psychological distress, past-year tobacco smoking, and past-year suicidal ideation compared with TGD people with no history of gender-affirming surgery.
These findings support the provision of gender-affirming surgeries for TGD people who seek them.
Requests for gender-affirming surgeries are rapidly increasing among transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people. However, there is limited evidence regarding the mental health benefits of these surgeries.
To evaluate associations between gender-affirming surgeries and mental health outcomes, including psychological distress, substance use, and suicide risk.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In this study, we performed a secondary analysis of data from the 2015 US Transgender Survey, the largest existing data set containing comprehensive information on the surgical and mental health experiences of TGD people. The survey was conducted across 50 states, Washington, DC, US territories, and US military bases abroad. A total of 27 715 TGD adults took the US Transgender Survey, which was disseminated by community-based outreach from August 19, 2015, to September 21, 2015. Data were analyzed between November 1, 2020, and January 3, 2021.
The exposure group included respondents who endorsed undergoing 1 or more types of gender-affirming surgery at least 2 years prior to submitting survey responses. The comparison group included respondents who endorsed a desire for 1 or more types of gender-affirming surgery but denied undergoing any gender-affirming surgeries.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Endorsement of past-month severe psychological distress (score of ≥13 on Kessler Psychological Distress Scale), past-month binge alcohol use, past-year tobacco smoking, and past-year suicidal ideation or suicide attempt.
Of the 27 715 respondents, 3559 (12.8%) endorsed undergoing 1 or more types of gender-affirming surgery at least 2 years prior to submitting survey responses, while 16 401 (59.2%) endorsed a desire to undergo 1 or more types of gender-affirming surgery but denied undergoing any of these. Of the respondents in this study sample, 16 182 (81.1%) were between the ages of 18 and 44 years, 16 386 (82.1%) identified as White, 7751 (38.8%) identified as transgender women, 6489 (32.5%) identified as transgender men, and 5300 (26.6%) identified as nonbinary. After adjustment for sociodemographic factors and exposure to other types of gender-affirming care, undergoing 1 or more types of gender-affirming surgery was associated with lower past-month psychological distress (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.58; 95% CI, 0.50-0.67; P < .001), past-year smoking (aOR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.57-0.75; P < .001), and past-year suicidal ideation (aOR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.50-0.64; P < .001).
Conclusions and Relevance
This study demonstrates an association between gender-affirming surgery and improved mental health outcomes. These results contribute new evidence to support the provision of gender-affirming surgical care for TGD people.
Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.
Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.
Err on the side of full disclosure.
If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.
Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.
Almazan AN, Keuroghlian AS. Association Between Gender-Affirming Surgeries and Mental Health Outcomes. JAMA Surg. 2021;156(7):611–618. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2021.0952
Coronavirus Resource Center
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: