Social Epidemiology of Depression and Anxiety by Gender Identity

J Adolesc Health. 2016 Aug;59(2):203-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.04.006. Epub 2016 Jun 4.


Purpose: This study investigates depression and anxiety in gender minority (i.e., transgender and/or gender nonconforming) compared with nongender minority (cisgender) young adults.

Methods: Data were from the Growing Up Today Study, a national cohort of U.S. young adults. A two-step method (maternal-reported natal sex in 1996 cross-classified with participant-reported current gender identity in 2010) was used to identify gender minority and nongender minority respondents (n = 7,831; mean age = 26 years). Differences in past week depressive symptoms and anxious symptoms were examined cross-sectionally by gender identity. Gender minority and nongender minority respondents were compared using age-adjusted logistic regression models.

Results: In gender minorities, the prevalence of depressive and anxious symptoms meeting clinical cutoffs was 52% and 38%, respectively, compared with nongender minorities (27% and 30% in females and 25% and 14% in males; p < .01).

Conclusions: Gender identity is an understudied social determinant of mental health. Surveillance efforts to monitor mental health disparities should include survey questions to assess gender identity in epidemiologic research. Research and interventions to understand and ameliorate mental health disparities by gender identity are needed.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Health disparities; Mental health; Transgender.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult