To determine the etiology of community-acquired pneumonia in the adult population of a defined area, specific antibody responses in paired serum samples, levels of circulating pneumococcal immune complexes in serum samples, and pneumococcal antigen in urine were measured. Samples (304 paired serum samples and 300 acute urine samples) were obtained from 345 patients > or =15 years old with community-acquired, radiologically confirmed pneumonia, which comprised all cases in the population of 4 municipalities in eastern Finland during 1 year. Specific infecting organisms were identified in 183 patients (including 49 with mixed infection), as follows: Streptococcus pneumoniae, 125 patients; Haemophilus influenzae, 12; Moraxella catarrhalis, 8; chlamydiae, 37 (of which, Chlamydia pneumoniae, 30); Mycoplasma pneumoniae, 30; and virus species, 27. The proportion of patients with pneumococcal infections increased and of those with Mycoplasma infections decreased with age, but for each age group, the etiologic profile was similar among inpatients and among outpatients. S. pneumoniae was the most important etiologic agent. The annual incidence of pneumococcal pneumonia per 1000 inhabitants aged > or =60 years was 8.0.