The Rotterdam Study is a prospective cohort study ongoing since 1990 in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The study targets cardiovascular, neurological, ophthalmological and endocrine diseases. As of 2008 about 15,000 subjects aged 45 years or over comprise the Rotterdam Study cohort. The findings of the Rotterdam Study have been presented in some 600 research articles and reports (see http://www.epib.nl/rotterdamstudy). This article gives the reasons for the study and its design. It also presents a summary of the major findings and an update of the objectives and methods.