- Transgender persons, like the LGBTQ community in general, experience higher rates of substance abuse and mental health conditions.
- Transgender persons may be at higher risk due to greater degrees of social stigma and prejudice.
- A new study by JAMA analyzed the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey and found that transgender individuals who underwent gender-affirming surgery had better mental health outcomes than those who did not.
- Substance abuse treatment should take gender identity into account to improve sexual health and overall wellbeing.
Many studies have found that the LGBTQ community suffers from a higher rate of substance abuse and mental health issues than the cis population. What’s more, LGBTQ populations of all ages are at disproportionately higher risk of poorer overall wellbeing compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers.
For transgender individuals, the rates may be even higher due to greater levels of social prejudice and minority stress. But reliable data on transgender substance abuse and mental health are sparse because the LGBTQ community as a whole suffers from a paucity of high-quality research.
However, a new study finds that among the transgender community, those who undergo gender-affirming surgery “significantly lowered mental health outcomes,” including suicidal behavior and substance abuse.
LGBTQ Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Like all segments of the population, in gender minority individuals, mental health issues often go hand-in-hand with substance addiction. However, LGBTQ individuals commonly experience greater comorbidities, which can include:
- suicide and mental illness
- social problems stemming from anti- LGBTQ violence
- social problems stemming from anti-LGBTQ bullying
- rejection by family and friends
- structural bias that increases LGBTQ poverty levels
- structural bias that decreases LGBTQ opportunities
Results of the Study
The new study, published in 2021 by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is a secondary analysis of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey of almost 28,000 respondents. Both reports shed much-needed light on the effect of gender minority on the mental health of trans persons.
The transgender and gender diverse (TGD) respondents in the study came from all fifty states. They were from various walks of life, including the military. The study adjusted for sociodemographic factors and other types of gender-affirming care.
The researchers reinforced that TGD people demonstrate:
- a 41% lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts
- a 7% to 61% lifetime prevalence of binge drinking
- a 33% prevalence of tobacco use
The study reports that trans persons who underwent gender-affirming surgery experienced better mental health outcomes, including reductions in depression, suicidal behaviors, and substance abuse.
The results highlight the positive mental health outcomes of gender-affirming surgery. The fact that this surgery improves common problems experienced by many trans people offers hope. Those who take the step of undergoing gender-affirming surgery may be more likely to stop abusing substances and to make other positive changes in their lives.
How Harris House Can Help
Gender-affirming surgery is just one step on the road to recovery for some transgender individuals. Postsurgical wellness also requires mental health and/or substance abuse treatment targeted to sexual identity and its common comorbidities.
Harris House recognizes the special needs of all gender-nonconforming patients as well as the importance of sexual well-being to the mental health of every individual. In both inpatient and outpatient programs, we offer treatment for all LGBTQ persons that is designed to meet the specific needs of this population.
If you or someone you love needs help with recovering from substance abuse, Harris House cares. Call us to learn about admissions.