The present study aimed to identify dietary patterns, from the frequency of consumption of food items and some semi-quantitative data, in a random sample of 9003 British adults, and to examine the associations of the main dietary patterns with demographic factors, lifestyle habits, measures of self-reported health and mortality. Principal component analysis was used to identify four main dietary patterns, and analysis of variance employed to examine the characteristics associated with them. The four components explained, respectively, 10.2, 7.3, 5.1 and 4.9% of the total dietary variation. Component 1, frequent fruit, salad and vegetable consumption with infrequent consumption of high-fat foods, was associated with middle age, non-manual socio-economic groups, non- and ex-smokers, 'sensible' drinkers, small households, the south of the country, and self-assessed 'excellent' or 'good' health. Component 2, frequent consumption of high-starch foods, most vegetables and meat, was popular with young men, older men and women, large households, non-smokers, non-drinkers and those who viewed themselves as healthy. Component 3, frequent consumption of high-fat foods, was predominantly consumed by young people, smoking women, 'high-risk' drinkers, and men reporting many illness and/or malaise symptoms. Component 4, high positive loadings for sweets, biscuits and cakes, with negative weightings for vegetables, was most favoured by students, the elderly, those living alone, residents in Scotland, but not those in central England, and those who did not smoke. For women only the first component was associated with low all-cause mortality, and the third component with excess mortality.