A large survey conducted in American universities reveals that students belonging to a sexual minority are more likely to suffer from mental and psychological problems.
This is the largest and most comprehensive mental health survey of American students. And it reveals that people who identify as transgender (whose gender identity is different from the birth sex) or non-binary (whose gender identity is between men and women) face enormous disparities in mental health, compared to their peers.
This unprecedented study, conducted at 71 universities, is published in theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine.
60% of cases of depression, 40% of suicide attempts
The research team examined the rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and cravings for a sample of 1,200 sexual minority students. About 78% had one or more mental health issues. 60% of these students have been clinically diagnosed with depression, compared with 28% of cisgender students, whose gender identity is aligned with birth sex.
These results are based on data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual national survey of campus mental health. More than 300,000 students have responded since it was launched in 2007. They can indicate the gender assigned to birth and their current identity. This has allowed the researchers in this study to examine the case of sexual minorities.
"The fact that more than 40% of transgender students have already attempted suicide in their lifetime makes me say that there is a considerable and disproportionate gap between transgender and transgender people, which research can help solve" explains Julia Raifman, lead author of the study.
Sanitary or housing, places of rejection for transgender people
The results of this study only reinforce other disparities already found within sexual minorities. For example, the dropout rate for higher education is higher for transgender people. In addition, most of them are victims of discrimination or harassment.
Some places, in universities, also exacerbate the malaise of transgender people: sanitation, or housing. Research has already shown that the risk of suicide is significantly higher among transgender people who have been denied access to restrooms or housing that is gender-sensitive.
Slowly, health and gender neutral housing are needed. The team of researchers hopes that higher education officials will use these results as a springboard for much more urgent actions, such as putting policies in place to allow students to change their names in the campus registries or raise awareness about issues relating to sexual minorities.