The effect of osteoarthritis (OA) on hand function of 67 institutionalized subjects was evaluated. Osteoarthritis changes were scored using the radiographic criteria of Kellgren and Lawrence. The total number of joints involved and average severity of affected joints were computed and then related to hand functions as measured by: (1) grip strength, and (2) mean times in completing maneuvers of Jebsen's test for hand function. Grip strength was significantly less in those with OA than in those without OA. Performance on the Jebsen maneuvers was less consistent. Compared with published normal values, mean times for the whole sample were longer. However, mean times between those with and without OA were not significantly different. A multiple regression of the effects of average severity rather than number of involved joints that accounts for the greater proportion of variance in the dominant hand. While OA of the hands is positively correlated with reduced function, the resulting disability appears to be relatively benign.