Being transgender in America may be hazardous to your health.
A new report in JAMA Internal Medicine characterizes a variety of health disparities between people who are transgender (that is, their gender identity is not the same as their gender at birth) and people who are cisgender (their gender identity matches their gender at birth).
Spoiler alert: There are many.
The data come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a health survey sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, 20 states added questions about gender identity to their survey; five more joined them the following year.
Researchers from Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, both affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, examined responses from 314,450 cisgender and 1,443 transgender interviewees. People who described themselves as transgender accounted for less than half of 1% of the entire sample.
Overall, the transgender people were younger, poorer, less white and more likely to be unemployed than their cisgender counterparts.
The researchers also found significant health differences between the two groups. Among them:
Transgender adults were less likely to describe themselves as healthy
The CDC asks Americans to describe their overall health as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor. The researchers reported that 29% of transgender adults rated their health as fair or poor, compared with 17% of cisgender adults.
Transgender adults were more likely to be overweight
Just under 66% of cisgender adults had a body mass index of at least 25, qualifying them as overweight. That may sound high, but it was significantly lower than the 72% share for the transgender adults.
Transgender adults were more likely to be uninsured
Nearly 21% of transgender adults lacked health insurance when they were surveyed. By comparison, only about 11% of cisgender adults did not have health insurance.
Transgender adults were more likely to let a health problem go untreated
More than 1 in 5 transgender adults said they had let a health problem fester because they couldn’t afford to get the necessary treatment. In contrast, 1 in 8 cisgender adults were in the same predicament.
Transgender adults were more likely to be depressed
Among the transgender adults who took the survey, 22.3% had been diagnosed with depression. That was significantly higher than the 18.4% of cisgender adults who got that diagnosis.