FACT CHECK: Is The Rate Of Regret After Gender-Affirming Surgery Only 1%?
A post shared on social media claims only 1% of people regret their gender-affirmation surgery.
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While the study cited does find a 1% regret rate, it and other subsequent studies share disclaimers and the limitations of research, suggesting the rate may actually be higher.
The Instagram post claims that only 1% of patients regret their gender transition surgeries. The source used is “Regret after Gender-affirmation Surgery: A systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prevalence” from the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
The caption is misleading, due to several factors and lack of research that were identified by the study itself and other subsequent papers. (RELATED: Did Canada Release A New Passport That Features Pride Flags?)
This study did not conduct original research, but rather compiled research done in many different places which resulted in a disclaimer warning of the danger of generalizing the results. “There is high subjectivity in the assessment of regret and lack of standardized questionnaires,” which varies from study to study, according to the NLM document.
The study quotes a 2017 study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, which conducted a follow-up survey of regret among patients after their transition. The study notes a major limitation was that few patients followed up after surgery.
“This study’s main limitation was the sample representativeness. With a response rate of 37%, similar to the attrition rates of most follow-up studies,” according to the study. Out of the response rate, six percent reported dissatisfaction or regret with the surgery, the study claims.
Additional data found in a Cambridge University Press study showed subjects on average do not express regret in the transition until an average of 10 years after their surgery. The study also claimed twelve cases out of the 175 selected, or around seven percent, had expressed detransitioning.
“There is some evidence that people detransition on average 4 or 8 years after completion of transition, with regret expressed after 10 years,” the study suggests. It also states that the actual rate is unknown, with some ranging up to eight percent.
Another study published in 2007 from Sweden titled, “Factors predictive of regret in sex reassignment,” found that around four percent of patients who underwent sex reassignment surgery between 1972-1992 regretted the measures taken. The research was done over 10 years after the the procedures.
The National Library of Medicine study only includes individuals who underwent transition surgery and does not take into account regret rates among individuals who took hormone replacement. Research from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) found that the hormone continuation rate was 70 percent, suggesting nearly 30 percent discontinued their hormone treatment for a variety of reasons.
“In the largest surgery study, approximately 1% of patients regretted having gender-confirmation surgery,” Christina Roberts, M.D, a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and a participant for the study for the JCEM, told Check Your Fact via email.
Roberts stated that while there were multiple major factors in regards to those regretting the surgery, including poor cosmetic outcome and lack of social support, she claimed discontinuation of hormone therapies and other treatment are “not the same thing as regret.”
“This is an apples to oranges comparison,” Roberts added. (RELATED: Is Disney World Replacing The American Flag With The LGBTQ+ Pride Flag In June 2023?)
Check Your Fact reached out to multiple doctors and researchers associated with the above and other studies and will update this piece if responses are provided.