Long-term Danish study finds trans people experience higher suicide, mortality rates

Pride in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Pride in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Wikimedia Commons/Stefano Bolognini

A long-term study conducted in Denmark has revealed that Danish transgender individuals experience higher suicide and mortality rates.

The information, gathered between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 2021, was collected by Dr. Annette Erlangsen with the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Centre Copenhagen, and Gentofte Hospitalsvej 15. 

According to the study, transgender people had attempted suicide 7.7 times the rate of non-transgender individuals in the country, and have 3.5 times the rate of death by suicide. Transgender people in Denmark also experience 1.9 times the rate of mortality unrelated to suicide and 2 times the rate of “all-cause” mortality, compared to non-transgender individuals. 

The age at the time of mortality for transgender individuals in Denmark was also statistically lower than non-transgender individuals.

The study was nationwide and register-based for individuals aged 15 and older. This information was taken from the Civil Registration System, and individuals born outside of Denmark were not used for this study, both for reasons of legal technicality with regards to recordkeeping of gender identification and of any mental health issues that may stem from immigration, refugee, or migrant status (for example, pre-immigration traumas that are associated with or lead to post traumatic stress disorder). 

“We were aware that transgender individuals probably had a higher rate of suicide attempt and suicide, but this is, to our knowledge, the first time that we were able to calculate national rates,” Erlangsen said in a written statement provided to Gay City News. “These demonstrate that transgender individuals do have excess risks of suicidal behaviour — and that we need to take action to prevent this.”

In a press release issued for United States audiences, Dr. Erlangsen added, “We knew from international studies that transgender people have an increased risk of suicidal behavior, so it is good to be able to quantify this relationship. Transgender individuals who have suicidal thoughts may be less inclined to seek help from existing psychiatric services because they do not want to have a record of this in their patient record as it might lower probabilities for later treatment. We see ourselves as a pioneering country in LGBT+ issues, and we have suicide prevention methods that work, but we lack solutions to this problem.”

Susanne Branner Jespersen, head of the Secretariat of LGBT+ Denmark, said in a written statement that the study revealed “worrying figures, which unfortunately we knew all too well in advance.”

“The figures indicate that there is a long way to go before we destigmatize what it means to be transgender and create better societal conditions for transgender individuals,” Jespersen said. “We all have a great responsibility to this aim and the current public debate about what it means to be transgender unfortunately does not always promote understanding and compassion.”