A recent study reveals that transgender individuals in England are significantly more prone to experiencing a chronic mental health issue compared to cisgender individuals, with some facing a risk that is five times greater.
Previous research indicated a greater likelihood of disorders like depression and anxiety in transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse individuals. However, these findings were derived from small-scale studies that cannot be applied to the entire population.
The initial study of its type that covers the entire nation has determined the impact of mental illness on the transgender community and the level at which they express that their requirements are not being fulfilled.
A study found that the likelihood of developing a chronic mental health issue in England is approximately 16.4% for transgender individuals and 15.9% for cisgender individuals. This is compared to a 8.8% risk for cisgender men and 12% for cisgender women.
The likelihood of disclosing a mental health issue was significantly greater for certain gender minority groups, with nearly half (47.2%) of non-binary transgender individuals reporting it.
The study, conducted by the University of Manchester in partnership with the Proud Trust and LGBT Foundation, was released in the Lancet Public Health journal.
Dr. Luke Munford, a senior lecturer in health economics at Manchester and co-author of the paper, stated that individuals who identify as transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse experience significant discrimination in England. This often results in difficult social interactions and a sense of not being accepted, which can contribute to mental health issues.
Furthermore, experiencing gender dysphoria, which is a feeling of discomfort caused by a disconnect between one’s assigned sex and their gender identity, may heighten the likelihood of mental health issues among transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse individuals. This risk is particularly prevalent when compounded by lengthy wait times for gender identity clinics within the NHS.
A research conducted on 1.5 million individuals aged 16 and above in England, with a sample of 8,000 transgender individuals, utilized information from the 2021 and 2022 rounds of the English GP patient survey. Participants were asked about their mental health status.
The study’s authors acknowledged certain restrictions in their research. These included the possibility that combining data from two years could result in some participants being re-sampled, leading to potentially biased results. Additionally, the use of clinical terminology in the survey and relying on self-reported data may have influenced which patients reported having a mental health issue.
The survey did not indicate when the participants’ mental health issues began. Munford stated that this meant the researchers could not dismiss the chance that the mental health problems existed before their gender identity change.
In addition to studying the prevalence of mental health issues, the researchers also examined the satisfaction of individuals’ mental health needs during GP appointments. Individuals who identified as non-binary or non-gender conforming were more likely to report unmet needs during their most recent consultation.
15.6% of cisgender men and 15.9% of cisgender women stated that their mental health needs were not addressed. This was less than the percentages reported by other gender identity groups, such as 20% for transgender men and 28.6% for individuals who did not disclose their gender identity.
The study’s co-author, Dr. Ruth Watkinson, a research fellow at the University of Manchester, stated that insufficient communication from healthcare providers and unsatisfactory staff-patient relationships could be the reason why trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse patients were more likely to express that their mental health needs were not addressed.
The NHS must make immediate changes to better support transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse patients. This includes improving the way gender is recorded in healthcare records and providing training for staff to meet the mental health needs of all patients, regardless of their gender.
On Wednesday, a group of organizations focused on charitable and human rights causes expressed their strong disapproval of the government’s proposed guidelines for how schools should handle transgender students in England.
The coalition of Stonewall, Liberty, and Mermaids expressed concern that the guidance disregards the existence of transgender students and may result in their involuntary disclosure. The group believes that this could hinder teachers from addressing bullying and potentially cause further harm and exclusion of transgender youth. They are urging for the withdrawal of this guidance.
The guidance released towards the end of last year informed schools that they are not obligated to allow students to socially transition by changing their preferred names or uniforms. The guidelines also stressed the importance of involving parents whenever possible.