Gender-related self-reported mental health inequalities in primary care in England: a cross-sectional analysis using the GP Patient Survey

Watkinson, Ruth Elizabeth and Linfield, Aimee and Tielemans, Jack and Francetic, Igor and Munford, Luke (2024) Gender-related self-reported mental health inequalities in primary care in England: a cross-sectional analysis using the GP Patient Survey. The Lancet Public Health, 9 (2). e100-e108. ISSN 2468-2667

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Abstract

Background Transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people face discrimination and barriers to accessing health care. Existing evidence suggests higher rates of mental health conditions among these groups compared with binary and cisgender groups. However, information is limited by poor gender recording in health records and surveys. We aimed to provide the first national estimates of gender-related inequalities in self-reported mental health conditions and mental health support across 15 gender groups in England. Methods We used changes to the 2021 and 2022 nationally representative cross-sectional English General Pracitioner (GP) Patient Surveys and used age-adjusted logistic regression to predict probabilities of two outcomes: first, self-reporting a mental health condition and second, self-reporting unmet mental health needs. We report results for 15 exposure groups: five gender groups (female, male, non-binary, prefer to self-describe, and prefer not to say), within three cisgender or transgender identity groups (cisgender, transgender, or prefer not to say). We explored potential mediation by adding covariates. Findings Of the 1 520 457 respondents in the estimation sample, 861 017 (51·4%) were female, 645 300 (47·4%) were male, 2600 (0·3%) were non-binary, 2277 (0·2%) self-described their gender, and 9263 (0·7%) preferred not to state their gender. 1 499 852 (98·3%) respondents were cisgender, 7994 (0·7%) were transgender, and 12 611 (1·0%) preferred not to say their cisgender or transgender identity. We found wide gender-related inequalities in the probability of self-reporting a mental health condition, with the highest probabilities among non-binary patients who were transgender (47·21% [95% CI 42·86–51·60]) or preferred not to say their cisgender or transgender identity (32·90% [26·50–40·00]), and among transgender patients who self-described their gender (35·03% [27·39–43·53]). With the exception of non-binary patients in each case, probabilities were lowest among cisgender patient groups (ranging from male at 8·80% [8·69–8·92] to female at 11·97% [11·86–12·07]) and patients who preferred not to say their cisgender or transgender identity (ranging from female 7·15% [6·06–8·42] to prefer to self-describe 10·37% [7·13–14·86]). Inequalities in other health conditions and socioeconomic factors might mediate some of these inequalities. Probabilities of self-reported unmet mental health needs were lowest among cisgender male (15·55% [15·33–15·76]) and female (15·93% [15·76–16·10]) patients with increased probabilities among all other groups, ranging from 19·95% (17·57–22·57) in transgender male patients to 28·64% (26·23–31·17) among patients who preferred not to say their gender or their cisgender or transgender identity. Inequalities in interactions with health-care professionals may mediate much of these inequalities. Interpretation Together with existing evidence, our findings showed large gender-related inequalities in self-reported mental health outcomes in England. Given the existence of self-reported unmet mental health needs, we suggest that better health care system inclusivity and health-care professional training are needed, alongside broader improvements in the social and legal environment for transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people.

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