Transgender-specific COVID-19-related stressors and their association with depressive symptoms among transgender adults: A nationwide cross-sectional survey in South Korea

Hyemin Lee, Arjee J. Restar, Don Operario, Sungsub Choo, Carl G. Streed, Horim Yi, Ranyeong Kim, Yun Jung Eom, Seung Sup Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted marginalized groups, including transgender populations, reproducing and exacerbating inequalities and vulnerabilities that existed in those groups prior to the pandemic. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of transgender-specific COVID-19-related stressors and their association with depressive symptoms among South Korean transgender adults. Methods: We conducted a nationwide cross-sectional study of 564 South Korean transgender adults (trans women, trans men, and nonbinary people) from October 7 to October 31, 2020. We measured four transgender-specific COVID-19-related stressors as follows: (A) had difficulty receiving gender-affirming healthcare due to economic hardship related to COVID-19, (B) had difficulty receiving gender-affirming healthcare due to limited access to hospitals under the COVID-19 situation, (C) had difficulty purchasing a public face mask due to gender information on an identification card, and (D) avoided getting a COVID-19 test in fear of unfair treatment and dirty looks due to gender identity, despite having COVID-19 symptoms. Past-week depressive symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale. Results: Of the total participants, 30.7% experienced any of the four transgender-specific COVID-19-related stressors, and 70.2% were classified as having depressive symptoms during the past week. We found statistically significant associations with depressive symptoms among participants who reported that they had difficulty receiving gender-affirming healthcare due to either economic hardship (adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR] = 1.20, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 1.05–1.37) or limited access to hospitals (aPR = 1.15, 95% CI = 1.00–1.32), respectively. Furthermore, those who had two or more of the four transgender-specific COVID-19-related stressors were 1.21 times (95% CI = 1.05–1.40) more likely to report depressive symptoms, compared to those who did not report any stressor. Conclusion: Transgender-specific COVID-19-related stressors may negatively influence depressive symptoms among South Korean transgender adults. Given these findings, transgender-inclusive interventions should be implemented at the policy level during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Transgender Health
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • depressive symptoms
  • gender minority
  • mental health
  • South Korea
  • survey
  • transgender individuals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Gender Studies

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