Transgender adults are more likely to be smokers, uninsured, suffer mental distress, and report being in ‘poor health’, study finds
- Researchers surveyed transgender adults and adults who are cisgender, meaning they identify as the sex they were assigned at birth
- Transgender people were 30% more likely to report being in ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ health over the past month
- They were also more likely to be current smokers uninsured and sedentary
- Survey results showed transgender adults were also 66% more likely to report experiencing severe mental distress
Transgender adults are more likely to be in poor health than those whose sex matches what it says on their birth certificates, a new study says.
Researchers found that transgender people were more likely to be current smokers, physically inactive and uninsured.
They were also 30 percent more likely to report being in ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ health compared to their peers.
The team, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, is now calling for doctors to more closely monitor the physical and mental health of their transgender patients.
A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found transgender adults were 30% more likely to report being in ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ health than cisgendered adults. Pictured: LGBT activists rally in support of transgender people in New York City, October 2018
For the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the team looked at more than 3,000 transgender adults and more than 719,000 adults who are cisgender, meaning they identify as the sex they were assigned at birth.
An estimated 0.55 percent of the people in the survey identified as transgender, which suggests there may be about 1.27 million transgender adults in the US.
Transgender people were 30 percent more likely to report being in ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ health over the past month than cisgender adults.
They were also 66 percent more likely to report experiencing severe mental distress.
Overall, about 19 percent of transgender respondents were current smokers, compared with roughly 16 percent of cisgender people.
Nearly 35 percent of transgender individuals were inactive, compared with about 26 percent of cisgender adults.
And, close to 80 percent of transgender participants had health insurance, compared with 85 percent of the other participants.
‘The US has made a lot of progress over the last several years toward acceptance and celebration of natural human diversity in gender identity and expression,’ said lead author Kellan Baker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
But, he says that between 2014 and 2017 – the period when the survey was conducted – attitudes shifted and treatment of transgender often got worse.
‘This study shows that being a transgender person in the US today – being transgender in a society that you know doesn’t fully accept you – is hard,’ Baker said.
‘It affects your health in negative ways, and that’s why issues such as nondiscrimination protections for transgender people are public health issues.’
Transgender adults also reported more days in the previous month when they felt physically and mentally unhealthy or felt unable to do all of their usual daily activities.
‘I think the take-home message for transgender adults here is clear, which is that transgender adults face additional mental and physical health disparities when compared to cisgender individuals,’ said Xiang Cai, a researcher at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, who wasn’t involved in the study.
Cai attributes the higher risks for poor health in trans people to ‘multiple levels of transgender-specific stigmas.’
‘However, I think it is important to note that adults in the transgender community are capable and resilient,’ Cai said.
He added that the study didn’t look at whether transgender individuals had gender-affirming surgery or were able to make their outward appearance match their gender identity.
‘Gender-affirmation treatments may be associated with higher levels of quality of life among those who desire them regardless of age,’ Cai noted.
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