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Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences

Transgender and anxiety: A comparative study between transgender people and the general population

By Walter Pierre Bouman, Laurence Claes, Nicky Brewin, John R. Crawford, Nessa Millet, Fernando Fernandez-Aranda, and Jon Arcelus, 2017

Background: Anxiety disorders pose serious public health problems. The data available on anxiety disorders in the transgender population is limited by the small numbers, the lack of a matched controlled population and the selection of a nonhomogenous group of transgender people. Aims: The aims of the study were (1) to determine anxiety symptomatology (based on the HADS) in a nontreated transgender population and to compare it to a general population sample matched by age and gender; (2) to investigate the predictive role of specific variables, including experienced gender, self-esteem, victimization, social support, interpersonal functioning, and cross-sex hormone use regarding levels of anxiety symptomatology; and (3) to investigate differences in anxiety symptomatology between transgender people on cross-sex hormone treatment and not on hormone treatment. Methods: A total of 913 individuals who self-identified as transgender attending a transgender health service during a 3-year period agreed to participate. For the first aim of the study, 592 transgender people not on treatment were matched by age and gender, with 3,816 people from the general population. For the second and third aim, the whole transgender population was included. Measurements: Sociodemographic variables and measures of depression and anxiety (HADS), self-esteem (RSE), victimization (ETS), social support (MSPSS), and interpersonal functioning (IIP-32). Results: Compared with the general population transgender people had a nearly threefold increased risk of probable anxiety disorder (all p < .05). Low self-esteem and interpersonal functioning were found to be significant predictors of anxiety symptoms. Trans women on treatment with cross-sex hormones were found to have lower levels of anxiety disorder symptomatology. Conclusions: Transgender people (particularly trans males) have higher levels of anxiety symptoms suggestive of possible anxiety disorders compared to the general population. The findings that self-esteem, interpersonal functioning, and hormone treatment are associated with lower levels of anxiety symptoms indicate the need for clinical interventions targeting self-esteem and interpersonal difficulties and highlight the importance of quick access to transgender health services.

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