Suicide risk 8 times higher among transgender people in Denmark

AFP - [email protected]
Suicide risk 8 times higher among transgender people in Denmark
Illustration photo: Ólafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

Transgender people in Denmark are nearly eight times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population, according to a recent study which is the first to examine the issue on a national level. 


The study, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found transgender people are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the rest of the population.

The findings signal that trans people are at higher risk of mental health disorders, researchers said, with rights groups calling for more support for the population.

"The suicide attempts and suicide deaths that we observed and analysed in our study only represent the tip of the iceberg," Morten Frisch, a professor of Sexual Health Epidemiology at the Aalborg University, told AFP.


"Underneath is an even greater burden of less visible mental health problems, such as loneliness, anxiety, depression and non-suicidal self-harm among transgender individuals," he noted.

Frisch added that he hopes the new findings will hopefully eliminate any remaining doubt that transgender individuals are a vulnerable group.

Earlier studies have shown that suicide and suicide attempts were more frequent among transgender people, but they have been limited to partial data and never covered an entire country.

Researchers examined data from between 1980 and 2021, looking at 6.6 million Danes, aged 15 and up, using the country's national registry of personal identity numbers.

Out of 3,759 identified transgender people, the study recorded 12 suicides and 92 attempted suicides over the period.

The mortality rate from suicide was 75 per 100,000 for transgender people, compared with 21 for non-transgender people.

'Minority stress'

The study's lead author, sociologist Annette Erlangsen, told AFP the difference can mainly be linked to what she described as "minority stress".

"When you belong to a marginalised minority group, such as transgender individuals, then you do experience more stress because all the time you are feeling different than the rest," said Erlangsen.

"There is stigmatisation and there are always challenging situations like which restroom do you use," she said, adding that accessing public services like health care can also be challenging.


According to the study, 42.9 percent of transgender individuals had psychiatric co-morbidities, around six times higher than the rate in the rest of the population.

"That might also really lead to what we call 'high risk behaviours'" such as substance abuse, Erlangsen said.

Rights group LGBT+ Denmark said the results were "deeply concerning and very painful but not surprising".

"I think that we can use the study for more initiatives in the area, to offer better support", director of the organisation Susanne Branner told AFP.

Better training for health care staff is among the needs, Branner said, adding that "we need to change the narrative on how it is to be transgender, for everyone to better understand."

At the same time, the figures reflect an improvement in attitudes with rates of suicide being higher before the turn of the century.

"It's going in the right direction," Erlangsen said. It is unclear whether the rates would be the same in other countries, she added, which have varying laws and views toward gender and sexual orientation.

"Denmark is known to be a fairly liberal country. So we could say that we would be worried that rates might be higher in other countries where transgender individuals experience more stigmatisation," she said.



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