The objective of this study was to examine the apparent incidence of hip fracture from discharge rates in European countries. A request was sent to the Ministries of Health in all European countries, asking for the number of hip fracture patients by age and sex, between the years 1983 and 1985. Seventeen countries responded. As expected, hip fracture was most frequently found amongst the elderly, particularly women. The incidence of hip fracture rose exponentially with age in both sexes. It was higher in women than men and there was a three-fold range between countries in the female to male sex ratio. There was an eleven-fold range in apparent incidence amongst women and a seven-fold range amongst men between the various countries. The highest incidence was found in the northern part of Europe and the lowest in the Mediterranean area. There was a significant positive correlation between the age-standardized incidence rates reported in men from each country and that in women. There was a larger difference in incidence between countries than between sexes, which suggests important genetic or environmental factors in the causation of hip fracture. The extent to which this reflects imperfect capture of data is uncertain but will be important to determine in order to identify reasons for differences and to enable confident projections of the future magnitude of this disorder.