Survival and risk analyses were performed on all 532 patients in whom long-term dialysis was started from 1970 through 1985. During this 16-year period, starting age increased from 47 to 60 years (p less than 0.001), and the incidence of diabetes mellitus and renal vascular disease increased. Survival analysis showed age, renal diagnosis, type of dialysis, and year starting dialysis to be important predictors of survival. There was a fourfold rise in the risk ratio as starting age increased from 25 to 65 years. The risk was 1.5 times higher for those patients who did not start dialysis in 1978 through 1981 than for those who did. Risk decreased fivefold for patients choosing home hemodialysis. Home hemodialysis patients survived longer compared with patients utilizing other dialysis modalities, possibly because of a younger average age and a lower incidence of diabetes mellitus and renal vascular disease. There was greater than a threefold rise in risk ratio with the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus compared with either chronic glomerulonephritis or polycystic kidney disease. Older patients and those with diabetes mellitus formed the high-risk group; these two characteristics have been increasing during the last eight years of the study. It is concluded that although patients with high risk have an increased and a high mortality, overall survival has improved.