Exploring Rural Disparities in Medical Diagnoses Among Veterans With Transgender-related Diagnoses Utilizing Veterans Health Administration Care

Authors:

Leigh A. Bukowski
John R. Blosnich

Abstract:

ObjectivesResearch shows transgender individuals experience pronounced health disparities compared with their nontransgender peers. Yet, there remains insufficient research about health differences within transgenderpopulations. This study seeks to fill this gap by exploring how current urban/rural status is associated with lifetime diagnosis of mood disorder, alcohol dependence disorder, illicit drug abuse disorder, tobacco use, posttraumatic stress disorder, human immunodeficiency virus, and suicidal ideation or attempt among veterans with transgender-related diagnoses.

MethodsThis study used a retrospective review of The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administrative data for transgender patients who received VA care from 1997 through 2014. Transgender patients were defined as individuals that had a lifetime diagnosis of any of 4 International Classification of Diseases-9 diagnosis codes associated with transgender status. Independent multivariable logistic regression models were used to explore associations of rural status with medical conditions.

ResultsVeterans with transgender-related diagnoses residing in small/isolated rural towns had increased odds of tobacco use disorder (adjusted odds ratio=1.39; 95% confidence intervals, 1.09–1.78) and posttraumatic stress disorder (adjusted odds ratio=1.33; 95% confidence intervals, 1.03–1.71) compared with their urban transgenderpeers. Urban/rural status was not significantly associated with other medical conditions of interest.

ConclusionsThis study contributes the first empirical investigations of how place of residence is associated with medical diagnoses among veterans with transgender-related diagnoses. The importance of place as a determinant of health is increasingly clear, but for veterans with transgender-related diagnoses this line of research is currently limited. The addition of self-reported sex identity data within VA electronic health records is one way to advance this line of research.