The Mental Health of Transgender Youth: Advances in Understanding

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The Journal of adolescent health


This review provides an update on the growing body of research related to the mental health of transgender youth that has emerged since the 2011 publication of the Institute of Medicine report on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The databases PubMed and Ovid Medline were searched for studies that were published from January 2011 to March 2016 in English. The following search terms were used: transgender, gender nonconforming, gender minority, gender queer, and gender dysphoria. Age limits included the terms youth, child, children, teenager*, and adolescen*. The combined search produced 654 articles of potential relevance. The resulting abstracts went through a tiered elimination system, and the remaining 15 articles, which presented quantitative data related to the prevalence of transgender youth and their mental health, were included in the present review. In addition to providing new estimates of the number of young people who identify as transgender (.17%-1.3%), studies since 2011 have shown that transgender youth have higher rates of depression, suicidality and self-harm, and eating disorders when compared with their peers. Gender-affirming medical therapy and supported social transition in childhood have been shown to correlate with improved psychological functioning for gender-variant children and adolescents. Recent research has demonstrated increased rates of psychiatric morbidity among transgender youth compared to their peers. Future work is needed to understand those youth who identify as gender nonbinary, improve methods to capture and understand diverse gender identities and related health disparities, and delineate the social determinants of such disparities.

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Adolescent; Child; Depression; Feeding and Eating Disorders; Female; Gender Dysphoria; Humans; Male; Qualitative Research; Retrospective Studies; Self-Injurious Behavior; Suicide, Attempted; Surveys and Questionnaires; Transgender Persons

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