Well-Being Mental Health

LGBTQ+ youth with autism face greater mental health challenges, study says

LGBTQ+ 13- to 24-year-olds with autism report higher rates of recent anxiety and depression.

Story at a glance

  • LGBTQ+ youth were more likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past year if they had ever been diagnosed with autism or suspected that they may be autistic, researchers at The Trevor Project said Friday.

  • About 5 percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported having been diagnosed with autism and another 35 percent said they believe they may be autistic.

  • Transgender women and girls, at 14 percent, had the highest autism diagnoses rates, according to the report, followed closely by nonbinary youth assigned male at birth, at 10 percent.

LGBTQ+ youth with autism face higher levels of mental health issues including anxiety, depression and suicidality, according to new research from The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention group for LGBTQ+ youth.

According to a report published Friday, LGBTQ+ 13- to 24-year-olds were more likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past year if they had ever been diagnosed with autism or suspected that they may be autistic, compared with those who did not have autism.

LGBTQ+ young people who said they suspected they may have autism reported the highest rates of anxiety and depression in The Trevor Project report, although youth who had been diagnosed with autism also reported elevated levels of recent anxiety and depression compared with those who said they had never been diagnosed with autism.

Overall, 5 percent of LGBTQ+ youth have been diagnosed with autism, according to The Trevor Project report, which uses data collected from close to 35,000 LGBTQ+ young people nationwide. Another 35 percent say they suspect they may be autistic.


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Transgender women and girls, at 14 percent, had the highest autism diagnoses rates, according to the report, followed closely by nonbinary youth assigned male at birth, at 10 percent. Transgender men and boys and nonbinary youth assigned female at birth were most likely to report that they believed they may be autistic.

Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ cisgender women and girls reported the lowest rates of being diagnosed with autism, at just 3 percent, while cisgender men and boys reported the lowest rates of suspecting they are autistic, at 9 percent.

Trevor Project researchers said the report signals a need for greater research into how autism presents among transgender and nonbinary people, as research has historically focused on data collected from cisgender boys.

“These findings highlight the urgent need for mental health providers to offer both LGBTQ-affirming and autism-affirming counseling services to autistic LGBTQ youth,” the researchers wrote, and “particular attention” should be given to efforts to develop and implement mental health and suicide assessments that include the unique needs of autistic youth.

Native and Indigenous, multiracial and white LGBTQ+ youth reported double the rate of being diagnosed with autism compared to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), Black and Latino LGBTQ+ youth, according to the report, although researchers noted that that is likely indicative of “historic underdiagnoses among communities of color.”