Researchers use the “minority stress model” to understand the cumulative effects the stress from experiencing stigma, prejudice, and discrimination as a member of a minority group, in addition to the general stressors that everyone experiences.
Testing this model with gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals has enhanced understanding of their higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared with the heterosexual population. Only limited studies of transgender individuals have suggested that stigma harms their mental health, however.
Recently, researchers supported by the Population Dynamics Branch analyzed data from a large and diverse sample of transgender persons in all regions of the United States. Respondents to the survey reported high rates of clinical depression (44.1%), anxiety (33.2%), and the experience of psychological stress as physical illness (called “somatatization,” 27.5%). Social stigma was associated with psychological distress. Family and peer support and pride in identity (as opposed to concealing transgender identity) all had protective effects (PMID: 23488522).