Analysis shows that a third of trans children given puberty blockers suffered worsening mental health
A third of trans children treated with puberty blockers worsened while on medication, according to a new analysis of a landmark study.
The original study found that 44 children aged 12 to 15 who took the controversial drugs experienced no change – good or bad – in their mental health.
This report, prepared by experts from the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in Tavistock and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) in 2021, ultimately led to a reduction in the age at which children could access puberty blockers.
But a new analysis of the data used in the report found that 34 percent of gender-questioning youth saw their mental health deteriorate while using the drugs.
This compared to 29 percent whose mental health improved and 37 percent who experienced no change.
The new analysis casts doubt on the findings of experts from the NHS’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at Tavistock and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) in 2021.
The reason for the difference in results is that the original study looked at the overall average of participants’ mental well-being over a twelve-month period.
This resulted in patients whose mental health worsened and improved, essentially canceling each other out, resulting in the overall finding of no change.
The reanalysis instead tracked individual patients’ scores to obtain the results, and found greater variation among participants taking the medication.
According to the authors, this method provided a better picture of how individual patients fared in a study and is an approach that should be taken in the future.
“With this approach it is possible to look at patterns, such as who benefits and who does not,” they wrote.
‘We recommend that these approaches are included in new gender dysphoria services being established in Britain and in new research studies being designed.’
Like the original study, the new analysis is limited.
This concerns a small group of participants for whom no control group existed, a cohort of children who did not take puberty blockers.
So while children’s mental health might change if they take puberty blockers, this cannot be proven because of the medication and not because of other external factors.
The new analysis, which has been uploaded to the Health Studies Preprint Service medRxivhas yet to be peer-reviewed.
Puberty blockers are a controversial drug used in the treatment of trans children to stop the physical changes of puberty, such as breast development or facial hair.
They are given under strict criteria for children with gender dysphoria, a condition in which they experience discomfort or anxiety because their gender identity does not match their biological sex.
Feelings of gender dysphoria can be heightened during puberty as the body undergoes changes that are tailored to the person’s biological sex.
Puberty blockers are also how teens end up getting opposite sex hormones to conform their bodies to their gender identity.
The NHS recognizes that little is known about the long-term effects of puberty blockers on children.
Although the physical effects of pausing puberty can be reversed if the medication is stopped, the psychological effects are still unknown.
There is also some concern about the possible impact of puberty blockers on children’s brain and bone development in teenagers.
In June, NHS England announced that puberty blockers will now only be given to adolescent gender dysphoria patients as part of clinical research.
The announcement was made as part of the health service’s new gender incongruity service for children and young people, which will replace the clinic at Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.
Tavistock was heavily criticized in an interim review carried out by pediatrician Dr Hilary Cass in July last year, which called the model ‘unsustainable’.
The clinic has been accused of rushing children onto puberty-blocking drugs by former patients who feel they are not being challenged enough.
Dr. Cass has called for “swift” research into the use of the drugs after finding “insufficient evidence” of their benefits.
Tavistock will close in May 2024 and be replaced by two regional hubs in the north and south of the country.
The Cass review was commissioned by NHS England in 2020 due to concerns that there was ‘scarce and unclear evidence to support clinical decision-making’.
There are also concerns about the sharp increase in the number of referrals to GIDS.
More than 5,000 referrals have been made in recent years, compared to just a few hundred ten years ago.
Speaking about the new analysis, a spokesperson for Tavistock and Portman Trust said: ‘We are grateful to all the doctors and academics who have contributed to this research over the years, and we welcome new peer-reviewed analyzes of the evidence on how these young people can be supported. people.
‘The analysis plan for the original study was independently prepared by medical statistics experts, and the underlying data was published so that other researchers could conduct further analysis.’
Although the Cass Review has released an interim report to the NHS, a final version is expected by the end of this year.
A spokesperson told MailOnline that the new analysis would be included in the final recommendations.