An historically prospective study of the rates of early retirement due to permanent ill health, early retirement between 60 and 64 years of age for other reasons, and deaths while in post, among consultant anaesthetists in England was carried out. The control group comprised consultants in four other hospital specialty groups. Approximately two-thirds of all consultants employed in the five specialties at National Health Service hospitals in England during 1966-83 were included in the study. Ill-health retirements among male anaesthetists were more than twice those expected on the basis of rates in the control group (p less than 0.001). The number of other early retirements between 60 and 64 was a third higher than expected (p less than 0.005). The number of deaths in post was also raised. For the smaller group of female anaesthetists there was not a statistically significant excess of ill-health retirements, but the number of early retirements between 60 and 64 was significantly greater than expected (p less than 0.005), as was the number of deaths in post (p less than 0.001). Possible causes of these excesses are discussed.