Transgender youth at risk for depression, suicide

Transgender youth are more at risk for mental illness, including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and self-harm than their non-transgender peers, according to a new study led by Sari L. Reisner, research scientist at The Fenway Institute and postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published online January 7, 2015 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The findings point to the need for gender-affirming mental health services and interventions to support transgender youth, Reisner told WBUR’s CommonHealth January 8, 2015. Until now there has been limited data available comparing the mental health of transgender adolescents with their peers. However, recent news reports of an apparent suicide of an Ohio transgender teen have pushed the topic to the forefront.

The new study examined data on 180 transgender patients ages 12-29 years matched with non-transgender patients who were seen at the Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center, a Boston-based community health center serving youth. Compared with non-transgender peers, transgender youth were found to have an elevated risk of being diagnosed with depression (50.6% vs. 20.6%); suffer from anxiety (26.7% vs. 10%); had attempted suicide (17.2% vs. 6.1%); and had engaged in self-harming activities without lethal intent (16.7% vs. 4.4%).

“If a person is not being seen for who they are it can be very distressing. So pediatricians present a very important entry point into care and can get youth who need services to the right place,” Reisner said.

Matthew Mimiaga, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, was senior author of the study.

Read the CommonHealth article: Gender Divide: Trans Youth Face Higher Mental Health Risk, Study Says

Learn more

Transgender individuals face discrimination, stress

Sexual minority youth less likely to buckle up than heterosexual peers