Background : In South Korea, there has been scant attention paid to the health of the transgender population. This study aims to identify mental health disparities between transgender adults and the general population in Korea.
Methods : Using a nationwide cross-sectional survey of 278 Korean transgender adults, the age-standardized prevalence ratios (SPRs) was estimated for several health outcomes including poor self-rated health, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation/attempt. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale 20 and suicidal behaviors over the past 12 months were assessed by a single question in the survey. The SPRs were compared between transgender adults and the general population who participated in several nationally representative surveys (i.e. the 12th Korea Welfare Panel Study, the 6th Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and the 3rd Korean Working Condition Survey) conducted in Korea. Estimated SPRs were calculated separately for transmasculine and transfeminine group, and each SPRs were compared to the both women and men in the general population.
Results : Transgender people had a statistically significantly higher risk of poor health conditions than the general population in Korea. Specifically, health disparities were greatest in mental health outcomes of transgender participants, relative to the general population. For transmasculine participants, the prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation were 11.51 and 19.72 times higher compared to the general male population. For transfeminine participants, the prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation were 8.05 and 9.94 times higher than the general male population.
Conclusions : Considering that the suicide rate is highest in Korea among OECD countries, these results suggest that interventions are needed to address the mental health disparities of Korean transgender adults.