Transgender and nonbinary teens are at much higher risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts than their cisgender peers, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years in Canada. Sexual minority youth—those attracted to the same gender or multiple genders or who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer—are also at increased risk of mental health issues, suicidal ideation (thoughts) and suicide attempts.
“The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a very stressful time for all young people, but particularly for gender and sexual minority teens. These findings, showing dramatic increases in suicide risk, should sound a clarion call that additional support is needed,” says Dr. Ian Colman, a professor at the University of Ottawa and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway, with coauthors.
As the risk of thoughts of suicide and attempts is not well studied in transgender and nonbinary youth, researchers analyzed data from the national 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth to expand the evidence base. The sample included 6800 adolescents aged 15–17 years, most of whom (99.4%) were cisgender, meaning they identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, and 0.6% were transgender, meaning they identify as a gender different from that assigned at birth. The majority (78.6%) of respondents were heterosexual, 14.7% were attracted to multiple genders, 4.3% were unsure of their attraction, 1.6% were girls attracted to girls, and 0.8% were boys attracted to boys.