This review summarizes the recent literature on the epidemiology of adult obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) from various population-based studies. Despite methodologic differences, comparisons have yielded similar prevalence rates of the OSA syndrome in various geographic regions and amongst a number of ethnic groups. Risk factors for OSA including obesity, aging, gender, menopause, and ethnicity are analyzed. We also provide discussion on adverse medical conditions associated with OSA including hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiovascular mortality, insulin resistance, and neurocognitive dysfunction. Finally with the progression of the global obesity epidemic, we focus on the economic health care burden of OSA and the importance of recognizing the largely undiagnosed OSA population with emphasis on strategies to improve access to diagnostic resources.