Transgender people are most likely to come from deprived areas, a new study has found.
People living in some of the UK’s poorest areas are two-and-a-half times as likely to be transgender.
For the first time experts have been able to analyse trends among transgender people by examining the GP records of more than seven million people.
Findings published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday found that the number of transgender people in Britain has risen sixfold since 2000.
Overall figures still ‘very low’
The study, conducted by researchers at University of College London, said the overall figures were still “very low”.
It revealed that the number of people with gender dysphoria, where people feel they are not the sex they should be, rose from one in 15,000 at the start of the millennium to more than one in 2,500 by 2018.
Teenagers aged 16 and 17 were the most likely age group to be transgender, it said, while those aged 16 to 29 years old had around one in 2,200 people.
They said the figures were likely to be an underestimate because it relied on people going to their GP about the issue.
The researchers were not sure why people from deprived areas were more likely to be transgender.
They speculated that wealthier patients could be accessing care privately “without going to the GP” on the NHS first, or that transgender people were more likely to be excluded from society and education.
Higher rates of mental illness
They also said people with gender-related conditions had higher rates of substance abuse and other mental illnesses.
The measure of deprivation used by the researchers was the Townsend score, which looks at rates of employment, home and car ownership, income and education.
It classifies cities like Nottingham, Leicester, and Bradford, as well as parts of London and Manchester, as among the most deprived places in Britain.
A separate study from the University of Cambridge found that transgender people were more likely to have other long-term health conditions and mental health problems, such as dementia or autism.
An analysis of referrals to the controversial children’s gender identity Tavistock clinic by Transgender Trend, an organisation calling for evidence-based healthcare, found that referrals most commonly came from Blackpool, Eastbourne, Brighton and Norfolk, among other places.
Blackpool three times the national average
Blackpool had three times the national average, between 2018 and 2019.
Dr Doug McKechnie, the lead author, said: “We do not know why more individuals from deprived areas had a transgender code in their records, and if this really means that there are more transgender people in those areas, or if they are simply more likely to be recorded as such in the NHS GP records.
“Transgender people face stigma and discrimination in society, potentially leading to exclusion from employment, education, and family support, which might make them more likely to move to deprived areas. Some areas might also be more ‘trans friendly’ than others.
“Another possibility is that transgender people in affluent areas were more likely to access specialist gender care privately, bypassing their GP and the long NHS gender clinic waiting list entirely.”
Dr McKechnie added that there was a lack of specialist clinics and a need to improve the available care because of the long waiting times on the NHS.