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Gender-affirming procedures increased in recent years, but mental health continues to be a concern, experts say

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Recent figures from a study reviewing thousands of medical cases show that gender-affirming surgeries increased across the United States in roughly a four-year period before COVID.

In the study's documents, researchers wrote the "findings suggest that there will be a greater need for clinicians knowledgeable" in this filed to offer affirming care procedure.

These surgeries, which are sometimes known as gender conformation, GAS or sex reassignment surgery, involve medical procedures to help a person transition into their self-identified gender, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The Cleveland Clinic, a medical organization researching many topics, says transgender is not a mental health disorder.

However, they note that transgender individuals may face mental health struggles including anxiety, depression, sadness and isolation. Some could stem from gender dysphoria. While some may never experience mental health challenges, feelings about gender identity can impact mental health negatively.

A study, from a group of specialists in gender-care health, was published today, covering a period from 2016 to 2020. Over 50% of the surgeries recorded in the study were breast/chest procedures. A smaller number, about 35%, were genital procedures.

According to the study papers, more than half of patients were between ages 19 and 30. Researchers reviewed roughly 48,000 cases to gather these figures. The data itself was gathered from the Nationwide Ambulatory Surgery Sample and National Inpatient Sample, which includes figures from multiple kinds of providers.

It is possible, according to the study, that the increase could be partly caused by changes to insurance laws surrounding transgender care -- and shifting cultural attitudes by some in regard to gender-affirming care.

Bullying, discrimination, harassment, prejudice and harassment are commonly reported by transgender individuals, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Many report severe psychological distress -- compared with only 5% of the rest of the U.S. population.

The researchers looked at multiple references for gender-care to find listings involving the surgeries over that four-year span, according to study documents. Overall the study shows care procedures of different types were on the rise.

"Consistent with prior studies, we identified a remarkable increase in the number of GAS procedures performed over time," according to the study. "A prior study examining national estimates of inpatient [gender-affirming surgery] procedures noted that the absolute number of procedures performed nearly doubled between 2000 to 2005 and from 2006 to 2011."

The majority of surgeries were from those between 19 and 40, while a small group -- only 7% -- were people between ages 12 and 18. Some states have specific policies surrounding transgender healthcare for youth under 18.

Many organizations have shown support for gender-affirming care in the past few years. That includes several mental health related groups, such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

In the conclusion, the researchers found that performance of these surgeries has "increased substantially in the US."

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

Article Topic Follows: Be Mindful

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