Psychiatric diagnoses and comorbidities in a diverse, multicity cohort of young transgender women: Baseline Findings from Project LifeSkills

Sari L. Reisner*, Katie B. Biello, Jaclyn M.White Hughto, Lisa Kuhns, Kenneth H. Mayer, Robert Garofalo, Matthew J. Mimiaga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

IMPORTANCE Transgender youth, including adolescent and young adult transgender women assigned a male sex at birth who identify as girls, women, transgender women, transfemale, male-to-female, or another diverse transfeminine gender identity, represent a vulnerable population at risk for negative mental health and substance use outcomes. Diagnostic clinical interviews to assess prevalence of mental health, substance dependence, and comorbid psychiatric disorders in young transgender women remain scarce. OBJECTIVE To report the prevalence of mental health, substance dependence, and comorbid psychiatric disorders assessed via clinical diagnostic interview in a high-risk community-recruited sample of young transgender women. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Observational study reporting baseline finding from a diverse sample of 298 sexually active, young transgender women aged 16 through 29 years (mean age, 23.4 years; 49.0%black, 12.4%Latina, 25.5%white, and 13.1%other minority race/ethnicity) and enrolled in Project LifeSkills, an ongoing randomized controlled HIV prevention intervention efficacy trial in Chicago and Boston, between 2012 and 2015. EXPOSURE Transfeminine gender identity. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Age- and site-adjusted prevalence and comorbidities of mental health and substance dependence disorders assessed via the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview, including 1 or more diagnoses, 2 or more comorbid diagnoses, major depressive episode (current and lifetime), past 30-day suicidal risk (no/low risk vs moderate/high risk), past 6-month generalized anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder, and past 12-month alcohol dependence and nonalcohol psychoactive substance use dependence. RESULTS Of the 298 transgender women, 41.5%of participants had 1 or more mental health or substance dependence diagnoses; 1 in 5 (20.1%) had 2 or more comorbid psychiatric diagnoses. Prevalence of specific disorders was as follows: lifetime and current major depressive episode, 35.4%and 14.7%, respectively; suicidality, 20.2%; generalized anxiety disorder, 7.9%; posttraumatic stress disorder, 9.8%; alcohol dependence, 11.2%; and nonalcohol psychoactive substance use dependence, 15.2%. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses was high in this community-recruited sample of young transgender women. Improving access to routine primary care, diagnostic screening, psychotherapy, and pharmacologic treatments, and retention in care in clinical community-based, pediatric, and adolescent medicine settings are urgently needed to address mental health and substance dependence disorders in this population. Further research will be critical, particularly longitudinal studies across development, to understand risk factors and identify optimal timing and targets for psychosocial interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-486
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Pediatrics
Volume170
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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