A recent study conducted by researchers at UCL has shown an increase in the number of people identifying as transgender in the UK. The research, published in BMJ Medicine, is the first comprehensive study of its kind in the country and aims to estimate the number of individuals whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth.
To gather data for the study, the team analyzed anonymized information from 7 million individuals aged 10 to 99 years, obtained from IQVIA Medical Research Data, a primary care database in the UK. The researchers specifically looked for diagnostic codes indicating that patients had discussed gender dysphoria, a condition in which an individual experiences distress or dissatisfaction due to a mismatch between their gender and sex at birth.
Although the overall number of individuals identified as transgender in their records was relatively low, there has been a steady increase over the past two decades. In the year 2000, approximately one in 15,000 individuals were identified as transgender, while in 2018, the number rose to just over one in 2,500.
Interestingly, the study found that the increase in transgender identity was consistent across all age groups. However, the highest rates were observed among individuals aged 16 to 29, with approximately one in every 2,200 people in this age group recorded as transgender in 2018.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Doug McKechnie from UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology & Health, highlighted the need for more specialized gender services to cater to the growing number of transgender individuals seeking treatment. Primary care plays a crucial role in the initial assessment of gender dysphoria, but medical treatment is typically initiated by gender specialists after a thorough evaluation. However, the waiting times for NHS gender identity clinics are long, sometimes spanning several years.
The study also revealed a correlation between transgender identity and areas of high deprivation. The rates of transgender identity were approximately two-and-a-half times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas. The reasons for this association are unclear and require further research. One possibility is that transgender individuals face stigma and discrimination, leading to exclusion from employment, education, and family support, which may make them more likely to move to deprived areas. Additionally, some areas may be more supportive and accepting of transgender individuals, influencing their choice of residence.
It is important to note that the study’s findings are based on the coding of transgender identity in clinical records, which is reliant on individuals initially contacting their GP. Moreover, the coding system does not fully capture the diverse range of gender identities, such as non-binary or genderqueer identities. Therefore, the study is likely to underestimate the true proportion of the population with transgender identities.
As the study’s data only extends up until 2018, it is anticipated that rates of transgender identity in primary care have continued to change and most likely increased in subsequent years.
- Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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