Transgender youth avoid health care due to stigma: UBC study
In some cases, not having their parents’ permission could bar trans youth from accessing the health care they need, said the study's senior author.
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More than a third of transgender youth in Canada don’t see the doctor when they are physically ill and many say it’s because they are worried health-care providers will react negatively when they find out about their transgender identity, according to a UBC study.
Senior author and UBC nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc says trans youth face more barriers to health care, even when it is for something as simple as an annual check up or getting treatment for the flu.
“When kids go for regular care, if you don’t feel comfortable with your clinician, or nurse practitioner, or the front desk clerk … then you run that risk that young people will feel extremely uncomfortable and won’t come back,” she said.
“So the next time they need health care for the flu or a sports injury they won’t get that care they need.”
Researchers found younger trans youth (ages 14 to 18), were more at risk, with 68 per cent forgoing mental health care for at least a year, compared to 47 per cent among those aged 19 to 25 forgoing health care.
In some cases, not having their parents’ permission could bar trans youth from accessing the health care they need, said Saewyc, who leads the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre at UBC.
“One of the things we worry about is health-care providers may delay care for younger trans youth, especially if family members aren’t supportive.”
Saewyc says the study emphasizes why it is important for health-care providers to receive training about how to deliver care to the trans community.
“At this point, with this many young people missing out on needed health-care across Canada, that speaks to the need for more training.”
Simple things like respecting people’s choice to identify with a certain pronoun could make the difference between a young person receiving care or not, she said.
Researchers, including lead author and UBC PhD candidate Beth Clark, used data from a 2013-2014 trans-youth health survey of 923 people aged 14 to 25 for the study. The study was published in Family Practice last week.