To examine the relationship between society stress and peptic ulcer perforation, time-trend analysis was performed on the annual incidence of perforated peptic ulcer per 100,000 population in Hong Kong during the years 1962-85, when Hong Kong, as a developing city, went through significant socio-economic and political changes, and the trend was correlated with specially designed and validated society stress scores estimated annually during the same period. The society stress scores were derived independently by two expert panels blinded to the purpose of the study, one selecting and categorizing negative news events for Hong Kong during this period, and the other weighing the categories and scoring the impact of the news on Hong Kong. The incidence of perforation increased significantly during the years and manifested three distinct peaks, which coincided with the worst economic recession in Hong Kong, the influx of mainlander Chinese and Vietnamese boat people, and the Sino-British negotiation on the sovereignty of Hong Kong after 1997. Both linear and autoregression analysis, the latter taking into consideration point fluctuations in rates, showed that perforation rates correlated significantly with the society stress scores (r = 0.57, P < 0.002). The peak effects and the significant correlations indicate that an association exists between society stress and peptic ulcer perforation, and suggest that chronic society stress plays an important role in the aetiology of this condition, although the relatively low r value also suggests the presence of other aetiological factors.