We analyzed data from 4115 persons aged 71 years and older who had blood drawn at a home visit in three communities to examine the cross-sectional distribution of serum albumin and correlates of hypoalbuminemia. Mean albumin was lower among older persons, from 41.6 g/l in men aged 71-74 years to 38.5 g/l in men 90 years or older, and from 41.1 g/l to 38.9 g/l in women of the same ages, respectively. Hypoalbuminemia (albumin less than 35 g/l) was observed in 3.1% of subjects. Hypoalbuminemia and lower serum albumin were independently associated with anemia, recent diagnosis of cancer, two or more limitations in activities of daily living, residence in a nursing home, heavy cigarette smoking (greater than 1 pack/day), and older age. A 10-year age increment was associated with 0.8 g/l lower serum albumin and odds ratio of 1.56 (95% CI 1.14, 2.13) for hypoalbuminemia after adjusting for demographic factors and health status. Characteristics associated with serum albumin may confound the reported relationship between serum albumin and mortality.