The number of patients diagnosed with gender dysphoria, defined as severe distress due to a mismatch between their perceived gender identity and biological sex, has risen dramatically over the past decade, Sweden's National Board of Health reported.
While there is a marked increase in all age groups, both among children and young adults, boys and girls, young men and young women, figures have really gone through the roof for teenage girls. The number of girls aged 13 to 17 being diagnosed with gender dysphoria has increased by a whopping 1,500 percent since 2008.
Among young men aged 18 to 24, the number of diagnoses has increased by 400 percent.
The spike has left Swedish health professionals puzzled.
“Yes, that the increase is clear, no doubt about that, however, we don't know the reason for it,” National Board of Health investigator Peter Salmi told national broadcaster SVT.
Furthermore, it is highly common for gender dysphoric patients to have several psychiatric diagnoses, such as autism, depression and anxiety disorders.
The board's survey also indicated that people suffering from gender dysphoria are at higher risk of suicide than the general population.
“People with gender dysphoria who committed suicide also had very high incidence of concurrent severe psychiatric diagnoses, making it difficult to distinguish one from the other in terms of suicide risk,” Peter Salmi stressed.
In 2018, there were a total 6,000 people, or 6 per mille of the population, diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The number is expected to increase in the coming years, as more and more people seek help and are being examined for gender dysphoria.
A similar situation has been observed in neighbouring Norway and Finland. There, the spike was also centred on teenage girls and left professionals none the wiser.
According to Mikael Scott Bjerkeli of the Harry Benjamin Resource Centre in Oslo, many teenagers apply for gender reassignment for the wrong reasons.
“We are afraid that there is a contagious effect on social media, where little-nuanced images and hashtags fail to tell a true picture of what it means to switch gender,” Mikael Scott Bjerkeli told national broadcaster NRK, citing “echo chambers” with no possibility for a critical conversation, and an overall polarised and aggressive debate.
A Finnish research led by youth psychiatrist Riittakerttu Kaltiala of Tampere University Hospital concluded that switching gender doesn't necessarily solve the problem for young patients aged 13 to 18 struggling with mental disorders.
“The majority of those who start taking hormones before they turn 18 in Finland find no mental relief in treatment. A small group is also feeling worse about themselves, both physically and mentally,” Kaltiala said.