The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of respiratory diseases in newborns and the mortality rate caused by the same disorders in an area-based survey conducted during the period extending from June 1, 1993, to May 31, 1994. These rates were related to sex, gestational age, birth weight, Apgar score, mode of delivery and obstetric pathologies. A total of 7588 newborns were studied. A simple diagnostic system was used, which was based on clinical, laboratory and instrumental criteria. The incidence of respiratory disorders was 3.3%; the overall mortality rate was 0.28% and the case fatality rate for respiratory distress syndrome was 14.8%. Neonatal asphyxia was frequently associated with respiratory diseases.