The aim of the present study was to ascertain the cumulative incidence of first hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the factors that predict its prescription. In a general population 1689 women were followed for 9 months in order to trace first HRT prescriptions. Determinants (well-being, attitude towards menopause, menopausal status and another 9 variables) were measured by means of a questionnaire. Data analyses were performed for all women and for women with or without typical climacteric complaints. The cumulative 9 month incidence of HRT was 6.2%. For women without typical complaints a lower level of well-being (odds ratio 5.5; 95% CI 1.9-15.5) and the former use of the contraceptive pill (odds ratio 4.6%; 95% CI 1.0-20.5) were independently associated with HRT prescription. For women with typical complaints a positive attitude towards 'menopause should be treated' (odds ratio 3.8; 95% CI 1.8-8.0) was a determinant of HRT prescription. The cumulative incidence of HRT prescription is high, but from additional data it is apparent that within a period of 1 year and 9 months the majority of women stop taking HRT. For women without typical complaints, physicians prescribe HRT five times more often to those with a lower level of well-being. For women with typical complaints the physician's prescription is primarily related to the woman's attitude towards (medical) treatment of the menopause.