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Transgender and Gender-Diverse Adults More Likely to Be Autistic

Transgender, Gender-Diverse Adults More Likely to Be Autistic

Transgender and gender-diverse adults are three to six times more likely to be diagnosed as autistic, according to a new study.

The new study, conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre in England, used data from more than 600,000 adults. Researchers say their study confirms previous smaller scale studies.

Researchers add that a better understanding of gender diversity in autistic individuals will help provide better access to health care and post-diagnostic support for autistic transgender and gender-diverse individuals.

The research team used five different datasets, including a dataset of more than 500,000 individuals collected as a part of the documentary “Are you autistic?” In these datasets, participants provided information about their gender identity, and if they received a diagnosis of autism or other psychiatric conditions, such as depression or schizophrenia. Participants also completed a measure of autistic traits, the researchers explained.

Across all five datasets, the research team found that transgender and gender-diverse adults were between three and six times more likely to indicate that they were diagnosed as autistic compared to cisgender individuals, people whose personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

While the study used data from adults who indicated that they had received an autism diagnosis, it is likely that many individuals on the autistic spectrum may be undiagnosed, the researchers noted. As around 1.1% of the UK population is estimated to be on the autistic spectrum, this result would suggest that somewhere between 3.5. to 6.5 percent of transgender and gender-diverse adults are on the autistic spectrum, the researchers said..

“We are beginning to learn more about how the presentation of autism differs in cisgender men and women. Understanding how autism manifests in transgender and gender-diverse people will enrich our knowledge about autism in relation to gender and sex. This enables clinicians to better recognize autism and provide personalized support and health care,” said Dr. Meng-Chuan Lai, a collaborator on the study at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Transgender and gender-diverse individuals were also more likely to indicate that they had received diagnoses of mental health conditions, particularly depression. According to the study’s findings, transgender and gender-diverse people were more than twice as likely as their cisgender counterparts to have experienced depression.

Transgender and gender-diverse individuals also, on average, scored higher on measures of autistic traits compared to cisgender individuals, regardless of whether they had an autism diagnosis, the study discovered.

“This finding, using large datasets, confirms that the co-occurrence between being autistic and being transgender and gender-diverse is robust,” said Dr. Varun Warrier, who led the study. “We now need to understand the significance of this co-occurrence and identify and address the factors that contribute to well-being of this group of people.”

The researchers point out that their study investigates the co-occurrence between gender identity and autism. The researchers did not investigate if one causes the other.

“Both autistic individuals and transgender and gender-diverse individuals are marginalized and experience multiple vulnerabilities. It is important that we safe-guard the rights of these individuals to be themselves, receive the requisite support, and enjoy equality and celebration of their differences, free of societal stigma or discrimination,” said Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge, and a member of the research team.

The study was published in Nature Communications.

Source: University of Cambridge

Transgender, Gender-Diverse Adults More Likely to Be Autistic

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2020). Transgender, Gender-Diverse Adults More Likely to Be Autistic. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Aug 2020 (Originally: 10 Aug 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Aug 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.