Study: Trans people 10x more likely to attempt suicide

A new study suggests that transgender people attempt suicide at a rate almost 10 times higher than found in the overall US population.

Researchers from the American Society for Suicide Prevention, and from the Williams Institute, did a study on suicide attempts in transgender and gender non-conforming adults. The data was drawn from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). This survey was conducted by the National Gay and LesbianTask Force and National Center for Transgender Equality.

The study found that the rate for suicide attempts in the general US adult population is about 4.6%. In transgender people, the attempted suicide rate is 41%. Trans men have a 46% rate of attempted suicide while trans women are not far behind at 41%.

Other factors like: younger age (adolescents), poverty, racial/ethnic minority or multiracial, incomplete secondary education, being HIV positive, having a disability, having a mental illness, all seem to increase the risk of a suicide attempt.

Rainbow hands via Shutterstock

Rainbow hands via Shutterstock

People responding to the survey who had experienced rejection by their families, discrimination, victimization, bullying, physical or sexual abuse and homelessness, among other negative life experiences were also more likely to have made a suicide attempt.

Almost 6,000 transgender adults took the survey. Their age ranges were from 18 to 98. Most were employed and most had at least some college. The respondents were from all over the US. There were more male to female respondents than there were female to male.

The authors offer these remarks about the necessity for additional research in their discussion of the data:

“First, more research is needed into the timing of suicide attempts in relation to age and gender transition status. In regard to timing of suicide attempts and gender transition, some surveys and clinical studies have found that transgender people are at an elevated risk for suicide attempt during gender transition, while rates of suicide attempts decrease after gender transition.” (Whittle et al., 2007; DeCuypere et al., 2006; Transgender Equality Network Ireland, 2012).

Further research is clearly needed on the occurrence of all aspects of self-harm behavior, including suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-injury, in relation to gender transition and barriers to transition. Such research would provide better insight into the factors that underlie suicidal thinking and behavior among transgender people, especially those who want to transition from one gender to another, and could serve as the basis for designing better interventions and suicide prevention services for this population.

Second, further research is needed to examine the interrelationship of rejection, discrimination, victimization, and violence related to anti-transgender bias and serious mental health conditions.

In-depth studies using in-person interviews and clinical measures are also needed to determine the independent and combined effects of these two factors in creating a pathway to suicidal behavior in transgender and gender non-conforming populations. Such studies could not only provide the basis for better interventions, but could also underscore the need to address through public policy the high levels of rejection, discrimination, victimization, and violence experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming people.”

The complete study including all of the demographics, statistics and discussion, can be found here.

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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