Using the General Practice Research Database, we examined the temporal changes in the rates of primary total hip (THR) and total knee (TKR) replacement, the age at operation and the female-to-male ratio between 1991 and 2006 in the United Kingdom. We identified 27 113 patients with THR and 23 843 with TKR. The rate of performance of THR and TKR had increased significantly (p < 0.0001 for both) during the 16-year period and was greater for TKR, especially in the last five years. The mean age at operation was greater for women than for men and had remained stable throughout the period of study. The female-to-male ratio was higher for THR and TKR and had remained stable. The data support the notion that the rate of joint replacement is increasing in the United Kingdom with the rate of TKR rising at the highest rate. The perception that the mean age for TKR has decreased over time is not supported.