Nearly 320,000 transgender adults with underlying health conditions are at risk of serious COVID-19 illness

An estimated 319,800 U.S. adults who identify as transgender have one or more medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or HIV, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that adults with underlying medical conditions and older adults are at high risk for COVID-19. Approximately 217,000 transgender adults are age 65 and older.

Using data from the U.S. Transgender Population Health Survey, researchers examined characteristics that may increase vulnerability to COVID-19 for the 1.4 million adults in the U.S. who identify as transgender.

“In addition to age and health, social and economic conditions can contribute to mental and physical vulnerabilities related to the pandemic,” said lead author Jody L. Herman, scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute. “Transgender people are disproportionately affected by poverty, homelessness, suicide thoughts and attempts, and a lack of health insurance, which puts this population at added risk.”

Key Findings


  • 319,800 transgender adults have one or more of the following conditions:
    • 208,500 have asthma
    • 81,100 have diabetes
    • 72,700 have heart disease
    • 74,800 are living with HIV
  • Approximately 137,600 transgender adults in the U.S. do not have health insurance.
  • 450,400 transgender adults have not gone to a doctor in the past year because they could not afford it.
  • An estimated 587,100 transgender adults have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

Economic vulnerabilities

  • Before the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 667,100 transgender adults lived below 200% of the poverty line.
  • An estimated 139,700 transgender adults were unemployed before the pandemic began.
  • Prior to the pandemic, 96,400 transgender adults reported experiencing homelessness in the past year.

“This report underscores the need for outreach and services for the transgender population, who face significant challenges to COVID-19 and its related social and economic impact,” said co-author Kathryn O’Neill, policy analyst at the Williams Institute.

Read the brief

April 22, 2020

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