Transgender children are more likely to face mental health challenges, study says

Story at a glance


  • Transgender children face a heightened risk of experiencing anxiety and depression compared with their cisgender peers, new research has found.

  • Transgender youth are also nearly six times as likely to experience suicidal thoughts, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

  • Researchers used responses from more than 7,000 nine- to 10-year-olds in the U.S., including 58 transgender youth, that understood the question “are you transgender?”

Transgender children are at least three times as likely as their cisgender peers to experience depression, anxiety and neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD, new research has found.

Transgender youth as young as nine years old are also nearly six times as likely to experience suicidal thoughts, according to a study published Friday by researchers at the University of Melbourne, signaling a heightened need for public health services geared toward transgender young people.

“Whether this is due to stigma, minority stress, discrimination, or gender dysphoria is unclear,” the study’s authors wrote, “but providing appropriate mental health supports to this vulnerable group is paramount.”


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According to a research letter published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study used responses from more than 7,000 nine- to 10-year-olds in the U.S., including 58 transgender youth, that understood the question “are you transgender?”

Responses were selected from the University of California, San Diego’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, which was designed to obtain a representative sample of the U.S. population. Both children and their parents provided informed consent.

Rates of reported depression and anxiety among transgender children were higher than in other studies of gender dysphoria, which researchers on Friday said is likely because most previous research has relied on responses from transgender young people attending specialist gender clinics.

Transgender youth receiving care from gender clinics are more likely to have support from their families, researchers said – a key protective factor for their mental health. In comparison, many transgender people in the general population lack parental support for their gender identity.

Researchers also noted that, in studies that used clinical and convenience samples of transgender adolescents, reported rates of depression and anxiety were much higher than in their sample.

“This is consistent with earlier clinic-based observations that transgender children have lower rates of anxiety and depression compared with transgender adolescents,” researchers wrote on Friday, “which may be explained by observations from the general population that depression and anxiety more frequently develop during adolescence.”

Published on Jul. 22, 2022


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