Transgender people in Denmark are nearly eight times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide, according to a recent study, the first to examine the issue nationwide.
The study, published last week in JAMA, also found that transgender people are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than other populations.
The findings suggest transgender people are at higher risk of mental health disorders, researchers say, and rights groups have called for more support for transgender people.
“The suicide attempts and suicide deaths we observed and analyzed in our study represent only the tip of the iceberg,” Morten Frisch, professor of sexual health epidemiology at Aalborg University, told AFP.
“Behind this lies a larger burden of less obvious mental health issues such as loneliness, anxiety, depression and non-suicidal self-harm in trans people,” he noted.
Frisch added that he hopes the new findings will dispel any doubts about whether transgender people are vulnerable.
Earlier research has shown that transgender people commit suicide and suicide attempts more frequently, but the data are limited to parts of the population and never cover the entire country.
The researchers examined data between 1980 and 2021 using the country’s national personal identification number register, surveying 6.6 million Danes aged 15 and over.
The study documented 3,759 suicides and 92 suicide attempts among transgender people during this period.
The suicide death rate for transgender people was 75 per 100,000 people, compared with 21 per 100,000 people for non-transgender people.
The study’s lead author, sociologist Annette Erronson, told AFP that the disparity was largely related to what she called “minority pressure”.
“When you belong to a marginalized minority, such as transgender people, you do experience more stress because you feel different all the time,” Erronson said.
“There’s a stigma and there’s always challenging situations like which bathroom you use,” she said, adding that access to public services like health care can also be challenging.
According to the study, 42.9 percent of transgender people suffer from mental illness, roughly six times the rate of the rest of the population.
“It can also really lead to what we call ‘high-risk behavior,'” such as substance abuse, Erronson said.
The Danish LGBT rights group said the result was “deeply concerning and painful, but not surprising”.
“I think we can use this research to create more initiatives in this area, to provide better support,” Suzanne Branner, the group’s director, told AFP.
Branner said there needs to be better training for healthcare workers, adding, “We need to change the way trans people are viewed so that everyone understands better.”
At the same time, the figures also reflect improving attitudes, with suicide rates higher before the turn of the century.
“It’s going in the right direction,” Erronson said.
She added that it was unclear whether the rates were the same in other countries, which have different laws and perceptions of gender and sexual orientation.
“Denmark is known to be a fairly liberal country. So we can say that we would worry that other countries where trans people experience more stigma might have higher rates,” she said.