Survey Provides Insight into Demographics and Health of California’s Transgender Adults

For Immediate Release
October 31, 2017

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Survey Provides Insight into Demographics and Health of California’s Transgender Adults

There are 92,000 transgender adults in California vulnerable to health disparities

LOS ANGELES – The first release of transgender data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health survey, shows the demographic characteristics of transgender adults in the state, such as size, racial makeup and marital status, as well as disparities in their health status. For example, one in five transgender adults in California have attempted suicide—a rate six times that of the state’s adult cisgender population.

The policy brief on gender identity, titled Demographic and Health Characteristics of Transgender Adults in California: Findings from the 2015-2016 California Health Interview Survey, is part of new CHIS estimates released today. CHIS is the only state-level representative survey in the US to include a two-step approach to identify transgender and cisgender respondents.

According to the brief, 92,000 transgender adults between the ages of 18 and 70 make up 0.35 percent of California’s adult non-institutionalized population. Transgender adults have general health status, insurance and health access similar to cisgender adults, but there are notable health disparities as well.

Findings show that 22 percent of transgender adults in California have ever attempted suicide, compared to 4 percent of cisgender adults. Transgender adults are about three times more likely to have had lifetime suicidal thoughts, 34 percent compared to 10 percent, and nearly four times more likely to have experienced serious psychological distress in the past year, 33 percent compared to 9 percent. They are significantly more likely to report having a disability due to a physical, mental or emotional condition, 60 percent compared to 27 percent. They are more likely to delay or not get needed doctor-prescribed medicine compared to cisgender adults, 32 percent compared to 11 percent.

“In many ways, transgender adults in California are similar in characteristics and experiences to cisgender adults,” said Jody Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute and lead author of the brief. “Yet, this study points out that there’s still much that needs to be done in California to address health disparities for the transgender population.”

Access the complete California Health Interview Survey data at


The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

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