The prevalence of gout in England was reported as having nearly doubled in the 1970s to about 3 per 1000, and it is possible that it has continued to increase. There may also have been some change in the level of prophylactic therapy compared with the 44.8% recorded in 1979. In this study, data were provided from their morbidity registers by 40 volunteer practices with a combined population of over 300,000 patients. Analyses of prevalence by age and sex, and of the extent of prophylaxis were made. The male:female ratio and the increase with age found were in line with earlier work, but overall prevalence was much higher at almost 10 per 1000. There was considerable inter-practice variation: 20% of this could be accounted for by the age and sex structure of the practice populations, but neither economic status nor broad geographical factors appeared to be significant, and it did not appear to be due to variation between practices in the level of special interest in gout. Prophylactic therapy--almost entirely allopurinol--was being prescribed for 48% of the sufferers; though practices varied widely in their propensity to give it, as a group the amount of allopurinol they used was close to the national average. The increase found in the prevalence of gout may be related to an increase in obesity in the population.