The overall probability of forming stones differs in various parts of the world: 1-5% in Asia, 5-9% in Europe, 13% in North America, 20% in Saudi Arabia. The composition of stones and their location in the urinary tract, bladder or kidneys may also significantly differ in different countries. Moreover, in the same region, the clinical and metabolic patterns of stone disease can change over time. We examined some epidemiological evidence about the main risk factors for stone formation, both individual and environmental. A slightly higher rate of renal stone disease emerged in males than in females, and in white Caucasians than in Blacks. Stones in the upper urinary tract appear to be related to the life-style, being more frequent among affluent people, living in developed countries, with high animal protein consumption. Bladder stones are nowadays mainly seen in the Third World, on account of very poor socio-economic conditions. A high frequency of stone formation among hypertensive patients has been reported, and among those with high body mass as well. There is no evidence of any rise in the risk of stone formation in relation to dietary calcium intake or tap water hardness.