The impact of the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian trans community

Sav Zwickl, Lachlan M. Angus, Alex Wong Fang Qi, Ariel Ginger, Kalen Eshin, Teddy Cook, Shalem Y. Leemaqz, Eden Dowers, Jeffrey D. Zajac, Ada S. Cheung

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Abstract

Background: Trans and gender diverse individuals (people who identify with a gender different to what was presumed for them at birth) are one of the most medically and socially marginalized groups in our community. The COVID-19 pandemic may compound preexisting depression and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Aim: We aimed to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian trans community. Methods: An online cross-sectional survey was conducted between 1st May 2020 and 30th June 2020, amidst strict Australia-wide social restrictions. Australian trans people aged ≥16 years were eligible to participate. Survey questions explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on living situation, employment, financial situation, and healthcare. Logistic regression to assess negative impacts due to COVID-19 on depression and thoughts of self-harm or suicide (measured by Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) are presented as odds ratios (95% confidence interval)). Results: Of 1019 participants, 49.6% reported experiencing financial strain, 22% had reduced working hours, and 22.4% were unemployed (three times the national rate). Concerningly, 61.1% experienced clinically significant symptoms of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 score ≥10), considerably higher than pre-COVID rates for the trans community and over twice the national rate. Moreover, 49% reported thoughts of self-harm or suicide (over three times the national rate) which was more likely if a person experienced cancelation or postponement of gender-affirming surgery (OR 1.56 (1.04, 2.35)), financial strain (OR 1.80 (1.36, 2.38)), or felt unsafe or afraid in their household (OR 1.96 (1.23, 3.08)). Discussion: Given rates of clinically significant depression and thoughts of self-harm or suicide are far higher in trans people than the general population, specific strategies to improve mental health in the trans community during the COVID-19 pandemic must be made a priority for policymakers, researchers, and health service providers to prevent suicide.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Transgender Health
Early online date2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • depression
  • suicidality
  • transgender

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