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Purpose: Knife carrying has caused considerable public concern in the UK. But little is known of the epidemiology and characteristics of men who carry knives. We investigated associations with socioeconomic deprivation, area-level factors, and psychiatric morbidity. Methods: Cross-sectional surveys of 5005 British men, 18–34 years, oversampling Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) men, lower social grades, and in London Borough of Hackney and Glasgow East. Participants completed questionnaires covering violent behaviour and psychiatric morbidity using standardised self-report instruments. Socioeconomic deprivation measured at small area level. Results: Prevalence of knife carrying was 5.5% (4.8–6.9) and similar among white and BME subgroups. However, prevalence was twice the national rate in Glasgow East, and four times higher among Black men in Hackney, both areas with high levels of background violence and gang activity. Knife carrying was associated with multiple social problems, attitudes encouraging violence, and psychiatric morbidity, including antisocial personality disorder (AOR 9.94 95% CI 7.28–13.56), drug dependence (AOR 2.96 95% CI 1.90–4.66), and paranoid ideation (AOR 6.05 95% CI 4.47–8.19). There was no evidence of a linear relationship with socioeconomic deprivation. Conclusion: Men who carry knives represent an important public health problem with high levels of health service use. It is not solely a criminal justice issue. Rates are increased in areas where street gangs are active. Contact with the criminal justice system provides opportunity for targeted violence prevention interventions involving engagement with integrated psychiatric, substance misuse, and criminal justice agencies.

Original publication




Journal article


Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

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