The aim of this study was to investigate the occupation-specific prevalence of musculoskeletal disease in Norway. A cross-sectional interview survey of a representative sample of households in Norway in 1985, including 6,681 persons, 16 to 66 years old was carried out. Age-standardised, occupation-specific prevalence ratios for musculoskeletal disease were calculated. Musculoskeletal diseases were more frequent in women (20.6%) than men (17.3%), and increased markedly with age. In men, the prevalence was highest for construction carpenters; in women, for manufacturing/construction workers. In both male and female occupations, the highest prevalence of musculoskeletal diseases was approximately two-fold that of the lowest. Health-related exits from the labour force, and mobility between occupations influenced the results. It is suggested that the high disability pensioning and sickness absence rates observed in some occupations are related to occupation-specific consequences of disease in addition to higher morbidity.