Gender-nonconforming and transgender students are four times more likely to report mental health issues compared to the rest of their peers, according to a new study that is the largest so far to focus on this population of college students.
Researchers relied on data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual online report on student mental health from college campuses across the country. The new study examined responses of more than 65,200 students from 71 American institutions who were enrolled in college between 2015 and 2017.
Roughly 1,200 respondents said they had an alternate gender identity, meaning they do not identify with the gender that matches their birth sex. The researchers grouped these students — about 2 percent of the study’s sample, which included transgender students, gender-queer students and gender-nonconforming students and others — into a category called “gender-minority students.”
Almost 80 percent of these gender-minority students reported having at least one mental health issue compared to 45 percent of their cisgender peers — students whose gender aligns with their assigned birth sex.
The study was published Friday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Its lead author, Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University, said while mental health professionals and LGBTQ advocates are aware that gender-minority students are much more likely to grapple with mental health issues, the general public is not.
Lipson called for further research on “campus and social environments that are supporting gender-minority students and allowing them to thrive.”
“There’s many stakeholders who will look at these data and be filled with a sense of urgency,” Lipson said. “But we know how change in higher education works oftentimes — it’s following and constantly looking around at what others are doing. And we need campuses that will champion this work and be proactively inclusive.”
Read more on InsideHigherEd.com.