Numerous studies have found that due to stigma, LGBT youth are more prone to mental-health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, than other youth.
Unfortunately, one of the country's first national surveys on transgender youth and healthcare has revealed that despite these risks, Canadian trans youth are neglecting their own needs when it comes to health. Why? One of the most common reasons is due to concerns about how unfamiliar or inexperienced doctors are with trans people, which points to issues and gaps within the healthcare system.
The UBC study was published on November 21 in the international academic journal Family Practice.
The researchers examined data from 923 transgender or genderqueer youth (aged 14 to 25 years old) who participated in the bilingual Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey that was conducted online from 2013 to 2014.
The majority of participants reported poor to fair general and mental health, and trans health status levels were lower than general Canadian youth. General and mental health levels related to how comfortable the youth were with family doctors and if they were out as trans to their doctors.
Trans adolescents neglected needed mental-health care (68 percent) far more than physical health care needs (34 percent). Yet the latter levels were still markedly higher than British Columbian youth aged 12 to 19 years old (6 percent male, 10 percent female).
Respondents indicated that they avoided healthcare for a wide range of reasons. The most common reasons included hoping the health problem would go away, apprehensions about what the doctor would say or do, not wanting parents to know, or previous negative experiences with healthcare.
Youth in rural or remote areas cited challenges in finding transportation to receive healthcare only available in urban locations.
Several youth also described past negative experiences with healthcare providers, such as doctors refusing to give refills on hormone therapy due to skepticism, and resorting to alternative methods for receiving help, such as through peer support or online sources.
Researchers noted that although the Canadian Medical Association passed resolutions in 2014 and 2015 to help medical students and doctors understand LGBT healthcare needs, Canadian medical schools only offer an average of four hours addressing LGBT subjects during pre-clinical education while no clinical education on LGBT issues is offered.
“Many transgender youth have experienced uncomfortable and frustrating encounters with doctors, particularly when a doctor isn’t well informed about transgender health,” the study's lead author Beth Clark, a PhD candidate in interdisciplinary studies, explained in a news release. “An encouraging finding was that young people who were more comfortable discussing trans health-care needs with their family doctors reported higher levels of mental health and health overall.“