Background: This study examines exposure to perceived discrimination and its association with depression among low-income, Latina male-to-female transgender women as well as evaluates the impact of sexual partner violence and mistreatment on depression.
Methods: A total of 220 Latina male-to-female transgender women who resided in Los Angeles, California, were recruited through community based organizations and referrals. Participants completed individual interviews using a structured questionnaire. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Perceived discrimination was assessed using a fifteen-item measure that was designed to assess the experiences of maltreatment of transgender individuals. Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine the association between perceived discrimination and depression after controlling for the presence of other variables.
Results: Of the sample, 35% reported significant depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 ≥ 15). Additionally, one-third of the participants indicated that in the two weeks prior to the interviews they had thought either of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead. The extent of perceived discrimination in this population was extensive. Many of the participants experienced discrimination on a daily basis (14%) or at least once or twice a week (25%) as demonstrated by a positive response to at least 7 of 15 items in the measure of perceived discrimination. Almost six out of ten participants admitted that they had been victims of sexual partner violence. Those who reported more frequent discrimination were more likely to be identified with severe depression. There was also a notable association between self-reported history of sexual partner violence and depression severity.
Conclusions: A significant association between depression severity and perceived discrimination was identified. How exposure to discrimination leads to increased risk of mental health problems needs additional investigation. Models investigating the association between perceived discrimination and depression among transgender women should include sexual partner violence as a potential confounding variable.