From a cohort of all 5760 male and 4979 female patients who were admitted to WA hospitals and were discharged with a diagnosis of asthma between 1976 and 1980, 265 deaths in men and 189 deaths in women were identified by the end of 1982. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for all causes of death for this cohort was 1.6 for men (P less than 0.001) and 1.7 for women (P less than 0.001). Both sexes showed a significant increase in deaths that were attributable to asthma (SMR, 57.9), chronic airflow obstruction (SMR, 9.3) and ischaemic heart disease (SMR, 1.3). The excess death rates for asthma were observed in all age groups, but those for chronic airflow obstruction and ischaemic heart disease were present in older age groups only. These findings indicate that asthma remains a potentially fatal disease in the Australian community. The excess mortality ratios for chronic airflow obstruction that were observed in patients who were admitted to hospital with asthma also suggest that asthma may result in irreversible airflow obstruction.