Sarah Ketchen Lipson
Gender minority college students have two to four times the prevalence of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injury and suicidality compared with cisgender students, according to a large national study published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"There has never been a more important time for colleges and universities to take action to protect and support trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary students on campus," Sarah Ketchen Lipson, PhD, of Boston University School of Public Health’s department of health law policy and management, said in a press release.
Lipson and colleagues examined mental health status by gender identity among undergraduate and graduate students across U.S. campuses using data from the 2015 to 2017 Healthy Minds Study, an internet-based survey of 63,994 cisgender and 1,237 gender minority students. Using clinically validated screening tools, researchers examined whether students had symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), suicidal ideation, suicide plans, suicide attempts and/or any mental health problem.
Overall, 78% of gender minority college students met the criteria for one or more mental health problems compared with 45% of cisgender students, according to the findings. More gender minority students had depression (58% vs. 28%) and reported self-injury (53% vs. 20%) than cisgender students. More than one in three gender minority students reported suicidal thoughts in the past year compared with one in 10 cisgender students.
Unadjusted logistic regression analysis revealed that gender minority students were more than four times as likely to have one or more mental health issues (OR = 4.3; 95% CI, 3.61-5.12) compared to cisgender students.
Compared with cisgender students, Lipson and colleagues reported that trans masculine (OR = 6.1; 95% CI, 4.81-7.63), transgender female assigned sex at birth (OR = 3.3; 95% CI, 2.18-4.91), genderqueer female assigned sex at birth (OR = 9.3; 95% CI, 6.42-13.31) and other self-identified female assigned sex at birth (OR = 7.9; 95% CI, 4.93-12.6) students were more likely to have mental health problems.
Gender minority students were also more likely to have past-year nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidality; trans masculine students had 2.9 times higher odds of self-injury and 2.6 times higher odds of suicidal thoughts and trans feminine students had 1.6 times higher odds of self-injury and 1.8 times higher odds of suicidal thoughts.
"Mental health outcomes, as well as negative educational outcomes like dropping out, are preventable. The most effective way to prevent them would be, from my perspective, through policy changes. Inclusive policies are necessary to advance equity. And that's what I really want these data to speak to,” Lipson said in the release. – by Savannah Demko
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.