Study: Uncomfortable physician encounters motivate transgender youth to forgo healthcare

Negative healthcare experiences and discomfort with physicians likely contribute to transgender youth avoiding healthcare services, according to a study published in the journal Family Practice.

For the study, researchers examined responses to a Canadian survey of transgender youth conducted from 2013 through 2014. In total, 923 individuals aged 14 to 25 years responded to the survey. Researchers found 68 percent of individuals aged 14 to 18 years had previously forgone needed mental healthcare, and 34 percent had previously avoided needed physical healthcare. Among older youth — individuals aged 19 to 25 years — 47 percent had previously avoided mental healthcare, physical healthcare or regular checkups.

Reasons for healthcare avoidance among respondents varied widely and included issues such as cost barriers and care access. Many young adults also reported previous negative healthcare experiences — such as interactions with clinicians unfamiliar with providing gender-affirming care — as a motivating factor in forgoing healthcare. 

"Many transgender youth have experienced uncomfortable and frustrating encounters with doctors, particularly when a doctor isn't well informed about transgender health," said Beth Clark, a PhD candidate in interdisciplinary studies at the University of British Columbia and the lead author of the study. "An encouraging finding was that young people who were more comfortable discussing trans healthcare needs with their family doctors reported higher levels of mental health and health overall."

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