In the absence of contemporary, population-based epidemiological studies, estimates of the incidence and prevalence of the inherited cardiomyopathies have been derived from screening studies, most often of young adult populations, to assess cardiovascular risk or to detect the presence of disease in athletes or military recruits. The global estimates for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (1/500 individuals), dilated cardiomyopathy (1/250) and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (1/5,000) are probably conservative given that only individuals who fulfil diagnostic criteria would have been included. This caveat is highly relevant because a substantial minority or even a majority of individuals who carry disease-causing genetic variants and are at risk of disease complications have incomplete and/or late-onset disease expression. The genetic literature on cardiomyopathy, which is often focused on the identification of genetic variants, has been biased in favour of pedigrees with higher penetrance. In clinical practice, an abnormal electrocardiogram with normal or non-diagnostic imaging results is a common finding for the sarcomere variants that cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the titin and sarcomere variants that cause dilated cardiomyopathy and the desmosomal variants that cause either arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy or dilated cardiomyopathy. Therefore, defining the genetic epidemiology is also challenging given the overlapping phenotypes, incomplete and age-related expression, and highly variable penetrance even within individual families carrying the same genetic variant.