End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is a serious illness with significant health consequences and high-cost treatment options. This study estimates direct and indirect cost associated with ESRD from a societal perspective. A prevalence-based approach was used to estimate direct health-care costs and productivity losses from short- and long-term disability. An incident-based human capital approach was used to estimate mortality costs as the sum of the discounted present value of current and future productivity losses from premature deaths. Less than 0.1% of Canadians have ESRD; however, the disease generated direct health-care costs of $1.3 billion in the year 2000. The amount of direct spending per person with ESRD is much more than the average spending per person for all health-care conditions. Adding indirect morbidity and mortality cost brings the total burden associated with ESRD to $1.9 billion. This economic impact is higher than that for skin or infectious diseases, about the same as for genitourinary or endocrine diseases, but lower than that for conditions such as cancer or stroke. This economic weight is borne by a relatively small number of individuals. With the rapid increase in the incidence of ESRD, these findings may be useful in setting priorities for research, prevention programs, and in the planning of treatments. A better understanding of the scope and magnitude of the total economic burden of ESRD would help to inform those making policy decisions.