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Study: Care for transgender youths sparse, especially in South, Midwest

November 29, 2022

Transgender youths may have the most difficult time finding medical or mental health care in the South and Midwest, according to a new study.

“Lack of these resources is particularly alarming given the higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, suicidality, and other MH (mental health) concerns among TGD (transgender/gender diverse) youth compared to their cisgender peers,” authors wrote in “Geographic Distribution of Clinical Care for Transgender or Gender Diverse Youth” (Weixel T, Wildman B. Pediatrics. Nov. 29, 2022).

Researchers from Kent State University used several databases to assess the number of pediatric gender clinics and mental health providers who care for transgender/gender diverse youths, acknowledging these sources likely don’t include all clinics and providers. They used transgender and gender diverse prevalence estimates of 1.8% and 9.2%, respectively, based on several previous studies.

Overall, authors estimated there are about 20,245 to 103,473 transgender/gender diverse youths per clinical care program aimed at this population. The worst rates were in the South and the best were in the Northeast. Washington, D.C., had the best ratio, while 19 states did not have a publicly listed transgender/gender diverse youth clinic.

Looking at the ratio of transgender/gender diverse youths to mental health care providers who work with this population, the overall rate was 118 to 601 youths per provider. Regionally, the worst rate was in the Midwest, while the best once again was in the Northeast. At the state level, Mississippi had the worst rate, while Washington, D.C., had the best.

Authors noted even states with the highest ratios of youths to caregivers could have disparities if most of these resources are in urban areas.

The study also looked at ratings from the Movement Advancement Project on laws pertaining to gender identity. Regions and states are rated as negative, low, fair, medium or high based on the level of equality. Overall, the U.S. is in the fair category with a score of 7.98 out of a possible 22 points. The South received the fewest points (5.54) and a rating of low. The Northeast had the most points (17.75) and a rating of high. At the state level, Tennessee had the lowest score (-6.75), and California had the highest (21.75).

Authors called for pediatric providers to educate parents of transgender/gender diverse youths and to help connect families to services. They also stressed the need to advocate for laws that protect this vulnerable population.




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