Suicide ideation at worrying high among trans elders, new study shows

A picture of two trans flags waving in an open area.

A concerning number of trans adults aged 50 or older have experienced suicidal ideation, according to a new US-wide study.

The study, conducted by California State University – Long Beach and published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging and Mental Health, found that more than one quarter (25.8 per cent) of trans adults aged 50+ in the US have seriously considered ending their lives.

This is an alarming jump from the estimated 4.7 per cent of adults at large in the US who have experienced suicidal ideation.

The study determines that this significant spike in suicidality among transgender adults is sparked by various challenges in different areas of their lives and shows an urgent need for targeted support and interventions to reduce suicidal ideation among this vulnerable population group.

Stock image of a trans flag waving in the wind
More than a quarter of trans adults aged 50 or older have experienced suicidal ideation. (Getty Images)

Commenting on the study, which was published today, to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance – an annual observance honouring the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost due to acts of anti-transgender violence, co-author Dr. Thomas Alex Washington said:  “Our research has exposed the distressing reality faced by many older transgender adults who are grappling with suicidal thoughts due to the cumulative impact of multiple adverse factors on their lives.”

Five different life factors were examined as part of the study: workplace issues, interactions with professionals, use of public services, personal safety, and socioeconomic disadvantages.

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Researchers found that all five areas significantly increased the odds of older transgender people contemplating suicide 

Specifically, the risk of suicidal ideation among trans adults increased by 96 per cent to 121 per cent for those who experienced challenges across any of the five areas examined.

These various challenges facing older transgender adults can amplify the risk of suicidal ideation even further when they occur together and negatively impact one another.

Most concerning of all, exposure to all five challenges increased the risk by 861 per cent.

Rainbow flag and Trans flag on a flagpole in front of office buildings
The findings were published on Transgender Day of Remembrance. (Getty Images)

The study confirms that most older transgender people “encounter persistent challenges in various domains of their lives”, said co-author Dr. Hugh Klein.

“These challenges interact in a syndemic manner, amplifying the risk of suicidal ideation.”

However, Dr Klein noted that this concerning risk of suicidal ideation does decrease among older transgender adults as they enter old age.

“Encouragingly,” he said, “we find that, among the older adults who participated in this large national study, the risk of contemplating suicide tends to diminish with advancing age, possibly due to greater resilience, adaptive strategies, changing life circumstances, and personal growth – all of which positive influence the mental health of transgender individuals as they get older.”

Compared to the 25.8 per cent of trans adults aged 50 and older who report contemplating suicide, the figure drops to 12 per cent for trans adults aged 70 and older.

A person holds up a trans flag.
A much lower 12 per cent of trans adults aged 70 or older report experiences of suicidal ideation. (Getty)

This study relied on data from a 2015 US National Transgender Survey, meaning it may not reflect the current feelings of older transgender individuals in the US, as so-called “culture wars” and anti-trans rhetoric infect the sociopolitical climate

In 2023 alone, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were drawn up by right-wing legislators, ranging from limitations on trans people’s access to public facilities like bathrooms and changing rooms to restrictions on how they participate in sports.

While not all of these bills passed, the influx of transphobia-fuelled bills and amendments has added fuel to the anti-trans fire burning across the US, putting an already vulnerable minority group at further risk.

Suicide is preventable. Readers in the UK who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (, or Mind on 0300 123 3393 ( ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.