Unmet Public Health Needs Among Transgender People in the U.S. Include Poor General Health and Lack of Access to Health Care

Media Advisory:
May 30, 2017

Media Contact:
Williams Institute, williamsinstitute@law.ucla.edu
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Unmet Public Health Needs Among Transgender People in the U.S. Include Poor General Health and Lack of Access to Health Care

Transgender individuals are more likely than non-transgender individuals to report poor health and lack of health insurance coverage

Los Angeles – A new study by scholars at the Williams Institute found that compared with cisgender (i.e., non-transgender) individuals, transgender individuals had higher prevalence of poor general health and they had more days per month of poor physical and mental health. More transgender than cisgender people lacked health care coverage, a health care provider, and dental care.

“The findings support calls by policymakers and advocates to pay attention to the unique needs of transgender individuals,” said Dr. Ilan H. Meyer, the study’s lead author. “At this time, when a measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could remove health coverage from as many as 24 million people, the health needs of transgender people could be further threatened, increasing disparities in health coverage between cisgender and transgender Americans.”

The study is the first to analyze health data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a nationally representative survey that includes questions to identify transgender individuals in 19 states and one U.S. territory.  The paper, titled Demographic Characteristics and Health Status of Transgender Adults in Select U.S. Regions: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014, is published in the American Journal of Public Health, and was written by Dr. Meyer with Taylor N.T. Brown and Dr. Jody L. Herman of the Williams Institute and Drs. Sari L. Reisner of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital and Walter O. Bockting from Columbia University Medical Center.

Among the study’s findings are:

  • Compared with cisgender people, transgender individuals had higher prevalence of poor general health, more days per month of poor physical and mental health, and they were more likely to have had myocardial infarction.
  • Relative to cisgender individuals, a higher proportion of transgender people lacked health care coverage and a lower proportion of transgender people had a regular health care provider and dental care.
  • However, transgender individuals did not differ from cisgender individuals in other aspects of health that were studied, including chronic diseases, cancers, and depressive disorders; and in health behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, or always wearing a seatbelt.

“This study is groundbreaking in that we use representative samples of transgender people to study health disparities,” remarked study co-author Jody L. Herman. “However, we were limited to certain regions of the U.S. because states are not required to ask questions about gender identity in the BRFSS.” The Williams Institute has recommended that all federal surveys consistently include measures to identify sexual and gender minorities so that their needs can be assessed.

Findings were based on the 2014 BRFSS, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which collects data from individuals via telephone interviews in each U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and in U.S. territories.  The BRFSS is the nation’s premier system of health-related surveys that provides key information about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.

Read the report.

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