In a population-based study in southern Wisconsin, 996 insulin-taking, younger-onset diabetic persons were examined using standard protocols to determine the prevalence and severity of diabetic retinopathy and associated risk variables. The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy varied from 17% to 97.5% in persons with diabetes for less than five years and 15 or more years, respectively. Proliferative retinopathy varied from 1.2% to 67% in persons with diabetes for less than ten years and 35 or more years, respectively. For persons with diabetes of 10 years' duration or less, the Cox regression model relates the severity or retinopathy to longer duration, older age at examination, and higher levels of glycosylated hemoglobin. After ten years of diabetes, severity of retinopathy was related to longer duration, high levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, presence of proteinuria, higher diastolic BP, and male sex.