Transgender college students face heightened mental health risks

Transgender college students more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and thoughts of suicide
By: | August 30, 2019
Experts urge campus administrators to create more inclusive environments for transgender college students, as they are far more likely than their classmates to struggle with mental illness. (gettyimages.com: nito100)Experts urge campus administrators to create more inclusive environments for transgender college students, as they are far more likely than their classmates to struggle with mental illness. (gettyimages.com: nito100)

Transgender college students suffer mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and thoughts of suicide, at far higher rates than do their classmates who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, a new study says.

Nearly 80% of gender-minority (GM) students reported dealing with at least one of the above symptoms, compared with 45% of cisgender (non-transgender) students, according to research published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“With regard to mental health, GM adolescents and young adults represent an underserved and under-researched population,” the study says. These students often face unique sources of stress, such as family rejection, the research found.

The report encourages colleges and universities to boost mental health services tailored specifically to transgender students and urges administrators to work to create more inclusive campus environments.

“Even when university-sanctioned LGBTQ resource centers or support groups are present, this doesn’t mean that university students, faculty and staff are uniformly affirming and inclusive of trans students,” Abbie Goldberg, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts, told UB in October.


Read more: Accommodating transgender students on college campuses


Goldberg studied trans and gender-nonconforming students across the U.S. to see how they were treated on campus. She encouraged administrators to provide options other than male and female on applications and to find ways to offer trans students single rooms with locks, as housing is their top concern.

Organizations such as Campus Pride and Trans Student Educational Resources offer ideas for making campuses more inclusive.

Financial concerns for transgender college students

Transgender students are also more likely to experience financial anxieties. They come from families with lower incomes and therefore are more likely to receive financial aid, the Association of American Colleges and Universities has found.

However, the association’s report found that transgender students are much more likely to be engaged in some form of activism in order “to overcome the barriers they face.”