The number of people identifying as transgender has risen five-fold over the last 20 years, suggest medical records.
Researchers found an increase across all age groups, but the highest was among 16- to 29-year-olds.
Recorded transgender identify was more common in areas of social and economic deprivation, reveals the analysis of nearly two decades of anonymized general practice records.
The findings, published in the journal BMJ Medicine, show that rates of people identifying as transgender were more than twice as high in the most socially and economically deprived areas as they were in less deprived areas.
Study co-author Dr. Douglas McKechnie, of University College London (UCL), said: “A solid grasp of the numbers and ages of those identifying as transgender is essential for appropriate service design, resource allocation, and staff training.
“But there’s little in the way of recent good quality data, with the last UK primary care records study that attempted to estimate these figures, published in 1998.”
The UCL research team analyzed the diagnostic codes recorded in anonymized GP medical records from the start of 2000 to the end of 2018 to track changes over time in the proportion of transgender 10 to 99-year-olds seen at 649 general practices around the UK.
The analysis included more than seven million people with at least one full calendar year of medical records information during the study period.
Dr. McKechnie says the overall number of people coded for the first time in their medical record as transgender was “small” at 2,462 or 0.03 percent, the equivalent to one in every 3,300 people.
A lack of comprehensive data meant that the researchers were only able to estimate the direction of transition for 1,340 people: 923 had been assigned male gender at birth, while 417 had been assigned female gender at birth.
Overall, newly recorded transgender identity codes increased five-fold between 2000 and 2018: roughly one person in every 70,000 was newly identified as transgender in 2000; by 2018, this had risen to around one in every 13,000 people.
The proportion of people with recorded transgender identity differed by age group.
It was highest in 16- to 17-year-olds – about one in 4,300 people – and in 18 to 29-year-olds, around one in 3,700.
Over time, the largest increase occurred in 16- and 17-year-olds, among whom the rate of newly recorded trans identity rose from zero and four per 100,000 people in 2000, respectively, to 78 per 100,000 people in 2018.
Dr. McKechnie says similar patterns were evident among 18- to 29-year-olds.
He said: “In 2018, the proportion of people identifying as transgender, and coded as such in their medical records, had reached roughly one in 600 among 16-17-year-olds and around one in 800 among 18-29-year-olds.
“Recorded transgender identity was associated with social and economic deprivation, the data showed, with the rates of people identifying as transgender more than twice as high in the most deprived areas as they were in the least deprived areas.”
The researchers pointed out that the coding doesn’t capture the full range of gender identity or decisions made not to transition or to detransition, and it contains terms that are now “outdated” or often misapplied.
And the data also only go up to 2018 so recording rates of transgender identity in general practice may very well have changed since then.
But Dr. McKechnie said: “Increasing rates of transgender codes in records may represent increasing numbers of people presenting to primary care with gender-related concerns.
“Reasons for such may include increased availability of information, support and resources and increased societal awareness and acceptance, all of which have partially destigmatized transgender identities and may make coming out as transgender easier for individuals.”
He said the observed link between deprivation and transgender identity was more difficult to fathom, adding: “We cannot confidently explain the association from our data.
“Transgender individuals in wealthier areas may be more able to afford specialist gender care privately, which can be accessed entirely independently of NHS primary care.
“This trend may be increasing with longer NHS waiting lists. Therefore, individuals from a wealthier background might bypass NHS services entirely.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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