Mental Health Among Gender-Dysphoric Individuals with ASD

Oral Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:45 AM
Willem Burger Hal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
M. A. Stokes and R. George, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia

There is increased mental-health adversity among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). At the same time, gender-dysphoric individuals experience poorer mental health when compared to non-gender dysphoric individuals. Recent research suggests that autistic individuals report increased gender-dysphoric traits (GDT).


The current study aimed to investigate whether as membership of minority grouping becomes increasingly narrowed (i.e.: an individual is a member of an increasing number of minority groups), mental health will worsen as a function of increasingly restrictive minority group membership. We hypothesized that individuals with ASD and individuals with GDT would have higher rates of Depression, Anxiety and Stress, and lower levels of Personal Well-being when compared to their respective control groups, and that as Minority status increases, Mental Health would worsen.


The present study compared the rates of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress using the DASS-21 and Personal Well-being using the personal well-being index (PWI) between 261 typically-developing individuals and 309 autistic individuals.


Results demonstrated that while ASD Diagnosis did not additively worsen Mental Health, when GDT was added to ASD Diagnosis, the effect was to worsen Mental Health, (p<0.01). This suggests a hierarchy of threats to Mental Health through Minority-group membership, where the effect of GDT is more extreme than a diagnosis of ASD.


These results reveal complexity in the manner in which GDT and ASD interact with each other. Further, these results demonstrate that recognition and support for those with ASD around issues of gender is paramount, lest their mental health be further damaged by a lack of recognition of this vulnerable cohort.