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Negative transgender-related media messages linked with adverse mental health outcomes

A study found that exposure to negative media messages was associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and psychological distress among transgender adults.

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Exposure to negative media messages from multiple sources necessitates multilevel interventions to improve the mental health of transgender people and curb stigma at its source.

This is according to a study – “Negative Transgender-Related Media Messages Are Associated with Adverse Mental Health Outcomes in a Multistate Study of Transgender Adults” by Jaclyn M.W. Hughto, David Pletta, Lily Gordon, Sean Cahill, Matthew J. Mimiaga and Sari L. Reisner and published in LGBT Health – that eyed to examine the extent to which transgender people have observed negative transgender-related messages in the media, and the relationship between negative media message exposure and the mental health of transgender people.

For this study, 545 transgender adults completed an online survey assessing demographics, negative transgender-related media messages, violence, and mental health. Separate multivariable logistic regression models examined the association of frequency of negative media exposure and clinically significant symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and global psychological distress.

The study found that the mean frequency of exposure to negative transgender-related media was 6.41 (SD = 2.9) with 97.6% of the sample reporting exposure to negative media depictions of transgender people across a range of mediums.

In separate multivariable models adjusted for age, gender identity, race, education, income, and childhood/adult abuse, more frequent exposure to negative depictions of transgender people in the media was significantly associated with clinically significant symptoms of depression (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.18; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.08–1.29; p = 0.0003); anxiety (aOR = 1.26; 95% CI = 1.14–1.40; p < 0.0001); PTSD (aOR = 1.25; 95% CI = 1.16–1.34; p < 0.0001); and global psychological distress (aOR = 1.28; 95% CI = 1.15–1.42; p < 0.0001).

In a gist: The present study found that exposure to negative media messages was associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and psychological distress among transgender adults sampled even after controlling for known sources of poor mental health (i.e., physical and sexual abuse).

The study recommended for structural interventions that aim to increase transgender visibility by featuring positive, gender-affirming depictions of transgender people to help to counteract the harms of negative media messages both directly and indirectly.

“In terms of direct benefits, structural interventions depicting transgender people in a positive light could increase transgender people’s self-esteem and diminish internalized stigma. Such interventions could also indirectly improve the wellbeing of transgender people by helping cisgender individuals develop positive attitudes toward transgender people, in turn leading to reductions in enacted stigma,” stated in the study.

Clinical interventions can also help transgender people cope with the stress of being exposed to negative transgender-related media.

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