This introductory lecture to the epidemiological session in the Workshop on the Exfoliation Syndrome (ES) gathers together figures for the prevalence of ES around the world. Prevalence figures from published reports are shown in the text separately for each country. Four ways of comparing the prevalences are used. 1) Prevalences in people over 60 years of age, 2) Percentages of glaucoma in persons with ES, 3) Percentages of ES in patients with glaucoma or ocular hypertension, with separate statistics for the proportion of capsular glaucoma in patients treated with laser trabeculoplasty (LTP), 4) Prevalence of ES in patients with cataract. The major differences in prevalence can partly be explained by the different techniques used in the investigations. Very few authors have studied people in different countries, which is the best way of obtaining comparable results. The author has personally studied Finns, Lapps, Eskimos in Greenland, Canada and Alaska, Icelanders, populations in Tunis, India and Peru and four populations in the USSR by the same technique. The prevalences vary from 0% in Eskimos to 21% in Finns over 60 years of age, and are at the same high level in Lapps, Finns, Russians in Novosibirsk and Icelanders, but significantly lower in all the others. The results support the opinion that ES is not uniformly distributed in all countries, and this is confirmed by many reports from different countries in this workshop.