Epidemiologic and clinical observations have suggested a relationship between generalised osteoarthritis (GOA) and hormonal and menopausal factors in women. We explored the hypothesis that postmenopausal women with GOA have altered sex hormone status compared with control women. We studied 112 women (mean age 64) with GOA. Controls were 151 women (mean age 54) from the general population without clinical evidence of hand or knee OA. All women were postmenopausal. Serum was assayed by RIA for testosterone, oestradiol, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and dyhydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS). Because of the differences in mean ages, the results were compared according to equal age groups divided on the basis of tertiles. SHBG was lower in the GOA group, reaching significance in the middle group 53-61 years (58.0 vs 67.9 nmol/l p less than 0.05). Testosterone was slightly higher in GOA women aged under 53. No consistent differences were seen in the older age group or for the other sex steroids. These preliminary data suggest that middle-aged women with GOA have lower circulating SHBG levels. This implies that higher circulating free oestrogens and androgens are present suggesting a role in the aetiopathogenesis of GOA.