Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOGICE), also called conversion therapy, is a discredited practice attempting to convert lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) individuals to be heterosexual and/or cisgender.
To identify and synthesize evidence on the humanistic and economic consequences of SOGICE among LGBTQ youths in the US.
Design, setting, and participants:
This study, conducted from December 1, 2020, to February 15, 2021, included a systematic literature review and economic evaluation. The literature review analyzed published evidence on SOGICE among LGBTQ individuals of any age. The economic model evaluated the use of SOGICE vs no intervention, affirmative therapy vs no intervention, and affirmative therapy vs SOGICE to estimate the costs and adverse outcomes for each scenario and to assess the overall US economic burden of SOGICE. Published literature and public sources were used to estimate the number of LGBTQ youths exposed to SOGICE, the types of therapy received, and the associated adverse events (anxiety, severe psychological distress, depression, alcohol or substance abuse, suicide attempts, and fatalities).
SOGICE (licensed or religion-based practitioners) or affirmative therapy (licensed practitioners).
Main outcomes and measures:
Total incremental costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) vs no intervention and total economic burden of SOGICE.
Among 28 published studies, which included 190 695 LGBTQ individuals, 12% (range, 7%-23%) of youths experienced SOGICE, initiated at a mean age of 25 years (range, 5-58 years), with a mean (SD) duration of 26 (29) months. At least 2 types of SOGICE were administered to 43% of recipients. Relative to LGBTQ individuals who did not undergo SOGICE, recipients experienced serious psychological distress (47% vs 34%), depression (65% vs 27%), substance abuse (67% vs 50%), and attempted suicide (58% vs 39%). In the economic analysis, over a lifetime horizon with a 3% annual discount rate, the base-case model estimated additional $97 985 lifetime costs per individual, with SOGICE associated with 1.61 QALYs lost vs no intervention; affirmative therapy yielded cost savings of $40 329 with 0.93 QALYs gained vs no intervention. With an estimated 508 892 youths at risk for SOGICE in 2021, the total annual cost of SOGICE is estimated at $650.16 million (2021 US dollars), with associated harms totaling an economic burden of $9.23 billion.
Conclusions and relevance:
This economic evaluation study suggests that there is a high economic burden and high societal costs associated with SOGICE and identifies additional research questions regarding the roles of private and public funding in supporting this harmful practice.