Sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of transgender adults in Australia

Ada S. Cheung, Olivia Ooi, Shalem Leemaqz, Pauline Cundill, Nicholas Silberstein, Ingrid Bretherton, Emily Thrower, Peter Locke, Mathis Grossmann, Jeffrey D. Zajac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Over the last 10 years, increases in demand for transgender health care has occurred worldwide. There are few data on clinical characteristics of Australian adult transgender individuals. Understanding gender identity patterns, sociodemographic characteristics, gender-affirming treatments, as well as medical and psychiatric morbidities, including neurobehavioral conditions affecting transgender and gender-diverse adults will help to inform optimal health service provision. Purpose: In an Australian adult transgender cohort, we aimed to first, assess referral numbers and describe the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, and second, to specifically assess the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methods: We performed a retrospective audit of deidentified electronic medical records in a primary care and a secondary care gender clinic in Melbourne, Australia. Annual referral rates, sociodemographic data, and prevalence of medical and psychiatric conditions were obtained. Results: Data for 540 transgender individuals were available. Rapid rises were observed in referrals for transgender health services, more than 10 times the number in 2016 compared with 2011. Median age at initial presentation was 27 years (interquartile range (22, 36), range 16-74). Around 21.3% were unemployed and 23.8% had experienced homelessness despite high levels of education. Around 44.1% identified as trans male, 36.3% as trans female, and 18.3% as gender nonbinary. Medical morbidities were rare but mental illness was very common. The prevalence of depression was 55.7%, anxiety in 40.4%, ADHD in 4.3%, and ASD in 4.8%, all higher than reported age-matched general Australian population prevalence. Conclusions: Rising demand for transgender care, socioeconomic disadvantage, and high burden of mental health conditions warrants a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to provide optimal care for transgender individuals. Given that ASD and ADHD are prevalent, in addition to gender-affirming treatments, psychosocial interventions may assist individuals in navigating health care needs and to support social aspects of gender transition. Further studies are required to understand links between ASD, ADHD, and gender identity and to evaluate optimal models of health service provision for transgender individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-238
Number of pages10
JournalTransgender Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity
  • autistic disorder
  • depression. gender dysphoria
  • transgender persons


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