A study of gender-affirming care is co-authored by SOU's Travis Campbell

SOU economist co-authors study on gender-affirming care, reduced suicide risk

(Ashland, Ore.) — Travis Campbell, an assistant professor of economics at Southern Oregon University, is the lead author of a collaborative research paper that suggests providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth reduces their risk for suicide attempts.

The paper, “Hormone Therapy, Suicidal Risk and Transgender Youth in the United States,” was published in the most recent edition of the American Economic Association’s Papers and Proceedings. It found that hormone replacement therapy appears to result in a 14.4 percent decrease in the likelihood of those transgender youth ever attempting suicide.

“By comparing transgender youth who begin hormone therapy to those who begin one year later, our research provides evidence of hormone therapy meaningfully improving the mental health of the recipients,” Campbell said. “This insight suggests that legislation restricting access to gender-affirming care may have large, negative impacts on the lives of transgender youth.”

The study comes as many states have tightened restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Bans on such care for minors have been enacted in 20 states – most of them this year – and similar legislation is pending in at least eight others.

In their study, Campbell and co-authors Samuel Mann of Vanderbilt University, Duc Hien Nguyen of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Yana Rodgers of Rutgers University analyzed data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey – the largest-ever assessment of transgender people. More than 27,700 respondents across the U.S. participated in the survey.

Survey data indicated that gender-affirming care reduces what is known as “gender dysphoria” – a sense of distress among some who feel their assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity. Reducing gender dysphoria, in turn, decreased suicide risk – particularly among those for whom therapy is initiated at ages 14 or 15.

The research found no statistically significant relationship between gender-affirming care and suicide risk among transgender adults – potentially because some transgender youth who are the most at-risk have already attempted suicide, the study’s authors have suggested.

Campbell and Rodgers published a separate study this year – “Conversion therapy, suicidality and running away: An analysis of transgender youth in the U.S.” – in the Journal of Health Economics. That study, which is also based on data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, found that the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” increases the risk of suicide attempts among transgender youth by 55 percent, and increases the likelihood of running away from home by 128 percent. Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation – or gender identity or expression – to conform with heterosexual norms.

Campbell joined the SOU Economics faculty after earning his Ph.D. in economics last year from the University of Massachusetts. His research applies microeconomics to social justice issues, including economic inequalities based on race, gender and sexuality. His classes at SOU include Micro and Macroeconomics, Quantitative Methods and Application, Healthcare Economics, Labor Economics and Gender Issues in Economics.