August 28, 2020 (Toronto) – Transgender individuals in Ontario are more likely to experience chronic health problems than the general population, according to a study just published in JAMA Open.
In the largest study of its kind ever conducted in Canada, 2,085 transgender individuals were identified using data from four outpatient clinics in three large Ontario cities, which were linked with administrative health data for the period between January 2012 and December 2016.
Sociodemographic characteristics, health conditions and health service use, including physician visits, Emergency Department (ED) visits, and hospitalizations were examined and compared between transgender individuals and an age-matched cohort of the general population.
The study found that transgender individuals were more likely to have higher rates of a variety of health conditions, including asthma, COPD, diabetes and HIV, compared to the general population.
It found that the higher prevalence of these chronic health problems among transgender individuals existed despite the fact that they were more likely to see their primary care physician than the general population. Transgender individuals were also more likely to live in poorer neighbourhoods.
Of particular concern was the higher rates of ED visits and hospitalizations, primarily for mental health issues, including self-harm, even though all of the health clinics where the transgender patient data was collected specialized in transgender health.
"This study demonstrates the need to provide transgender competent and inclusive health care and the need to improve the capacity to identify transgender individuals in administrative health data, so that we can understand the factors underlying the high rates of disease burden," said lead author Independent Scientist at the CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy research Dr. Alex Abramovich, who identifies as a transgender man.
The study authors also hope that this data will lead to a better understanding of how best to intervene to improve health outcomes among transgender individuals, who also face higher rates of mental health issues compared to the general population, as well as discrimination, stigma, and violence.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit www.camh.ca.
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