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This study analyses demographic and spatial factors that underlie the rise in murder rates seen in Britain between 1981 and 2000 and considers the possible contribution of a public health approach to the understanding of murder. Comparison of murder rates by age group and sex finds that increases occurred only among males aged 5–59 years, and were greatest among males aged 20–24 years. Analysis of the relationship with poverty at the area level, using the Breadline Britain index and deciles based on wards, demonstrates that increases in murder rates were concentrated in the poorest areas. Rates of murder have risen in the same population groups and areas that have experienced increases in suicide and may be associated with worsening social and spatial inequality.