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Transgender and gender-diverse adults more likely to be diagnosed as autistic, University of Cambridge study finds

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

Scientists at the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre used five datasets, covering more than 600,000 adults, to reach their conclusion.

Prof Simon Baron-Cohen at Trinity College, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Prof Simon Baron-Cohen at Trinity College, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Among them was one dataset collected from the Channel 4 documentary Are You Autistic?, involving more than half a million people.

Participants gave information about their gender identity, whether they had received a diagnosis of autism or other psychiatric conditions such as depression or schizophrenia, and completed a measure of autistic traits.

Across all datasets, transgender and gender-diverse adult individuals were between three and six times more likely to indicate that they were diagnosed as autistic.

The findings suggest that somewhere between 3.5 to 6.5 per cent of transgender and gender-diverse adults are on the autistic spectrum. About 1.1 per cent of the UK population is estimated to be on the spectrum.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge, and a member of the team, said: “Both autistic individuals and transgender and gender-diverse individuals are marginalised and experience multiple vulnerabilities.

“It is important that we safeguard 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.”

While the study investigates the co-occurrence between gender identity and autism, the team did not investigate if one causes the other.

Transgender and gender-diverse individuals were also more likely to indicate that they had received diagnoses of mental health conditions. In particular, they were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression.

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