Medical, psychological, and social adaptation (quality of life) as well as cognitive function were studied in 15 chronic stable hemodialysis patients before the onset of treatment with recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO), 1 month after stabilization of normal hematocrit levels, and 10 to 15 months after treatment onset. After r-HuEPO treatment, subjects had significantly higher hematocrits, markedly improved energy levels, and marginally improved global health. r-HuEPO treatment was also associated with progressively decreased levels of subject mood disturbance and dialysis-related stresses. Subjects had no increased participation in paid employment and only minimally increased participation in social and leisure activities at posttreatment data points. There was no significant improvement in cognitive function after treatment. r-HuEPO treatment appears to be associated with higher energy levels, significant psychological benefits, and minimal improvements in social adaptation. The effects on cognitive function merit further study.