Cambridge University study explores gender and autism

Transgender and gender-diverse individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than cisgender adults, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Cambridge, is among the largest to study the difference in diagnosis rates among gender groups.

The paper looked at data from over 600,000 adults who were asked about their gender identity and if they had received a diagnosis of autism, as well as their mental illness history. Each participant had also taken part in a test to assess the severity of their autistic traits, if any.

According to the report, those who identified as transgender or gender-diverse were between “three to six times more likely” to be diagnosed with autism, compared to cisgender participants – defined as those whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth.

This represents around 3.5 to 6.5 per cent of the transgender and gender-diverse group. Correspondingly, autism occurs in just one per cent of the general population.

Commenting on the study, author Dr Meng-Chuan Lai 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 personalised support and health care.”

The research also reveals that transgender and gender-diverse adults were up to two times more likely to receive a diagnosis of depression or other mental health disorder. The authors suggest this could be because “both autistic individuals and transgender and gender-diverse individuals are marginalized and experience multiple vulnerabilities”.

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