Scotland requires cases of chickenpox to be notified formally and maintains comprehensive data on general practice consultations, hospital admissions, abortions, laboratory reports, and mortality associated with the disease. These were used to investigate the age specific incidence of chickenpox for the years 1981 to 1998. The general trend was towards decreased age at infection: most infections now occur in the 1 to 4 year age group, rather than among schoolchildren. Hospital admissions for which a diagnosis of chickenpox was recorded increased, mainly in the under 5 and 25 to 34 year age groups. These data, which we believe to be among the most comprehensive available on current chickenpox epidemiology, may be used to inform preventative policy, particularly now that a live vaccine for the prevention of primary varicella infection is available. If vaccination against varicella is introduced in the United Kingdom, these data will provide a baseline against which to assess its impact on primary varicella infection.