A reanalysis of a major study conducted by University College London Hospitals (UCLH) and the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service has suggested that a third of transgender children who underwent treatment with puberty blockers experienced mental health problems. The original study, known as the Early Intervention Study, analyzed the psychological function of 44 children between the ages of 12 and 15 receiving puberty blockers and concluded that there were no changes in their mental health.
However, a new analysis of the same data revealed that 34% of participants experienced a deterioration in their mental health, while 29% showed improvement after 12 months of taking puberty blockers. Another 37% showed no significant change. The original findings were based on group averages, but the new analysis provided individualized results, giving a clearer indication of the variation across participants.
The reanalysis was conducted by Susan McPherson, a professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Essex, and David Freedman, a retired social scientist. They recommended incorporating this approach into new gender dysphoria services and research studies to better understand who benefits from these treatments and who does not.
These findings raise questions about the original conclusions of the study and have been forwarded to Dr. Hilary Cass, who is currently conducting an independent review of gender identity services for children and young people. Dr. Cass’s interim report, published in February 2022, highlighted gaps in evidence regarding the use of puberty blockers.
A review conducted in April 2021 by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence also found limited evidence on the use of puberty blockers, with existing studies being small and subject to bias and confounding. The Cass review team stated that they would consider all new research in their final recommendations, expected by the end of the year.
Both UCLH and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust welcomed the new contributions to the evidence base and emphasized the importance of research in developing services for gender diverse young people. They also supported the idea that puberty suppressing hormones should only be available as part of a clinical research study with proper approvals.
However, it’s important to note that this reanalysis does not provide a definitive conclusion about the effects of puberty blockers on transgender children’s mental health. Further research and analysis are needed to fully understand the benefits and potential risks of these interventions.
– University College London Hospitals (UCLH)
– Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust