The factors that drive subjects with dyspepsia in the community to seek medical care are uncertain. We aimed to identify whether psychological factors explain health care utilization among subjects with dyspepsia. A sample of residents of western Sydney selected randomly from the electoral rolls was mailed a validated self-report questionnaire. Dyspepsia was defined as pain or discomfort centered in the upper abdomen. Potential predictors of physician visits tested included gastrointestinal symptoms, neuroticism (by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire), psychological morbidity (General Health Questionnaire), and sexual, physical, and emotional abuse (based on standardized criteria). Among 730 subjects, 13% (95% CI 10.3-15.2%) had dyspepsia and 70% (95% CI 59.8-79.5%) had sought medical care. Subjects with dyspepsia had significantly higher neuroticism and psychological morbidity scores and reported childhood emotional abuse more often than those without dyspepsia (all P < 0.05), but none of these were independent predictors. Male gender (OR = 0.58, 95% CI 0.37-0.91), greater pain severity (OR = 2.49, 95% CI 2.12-2.91, P < 0.01), and meeting the Rome criteria for irritable bowel (OR = 2.0, 95% CI 1.06-3.78) were associated with dyspepsia subjects seeing a physician or alternative therapist for abdominal pain or discomfort, explaining 32% of the deviance. Pain severity (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.22-1.58) and symptoms of five or more years duration (OR = 5.73, 95% CI 3.71-8.87) were predictive of dyspepsia subjects ever seeking care for abdominal pain or discomfort, explaining 15% of the deviance. Psychological factors were not significant predictors of seeking medical attention in dyspepsia. Health care seeking among community subjects with dyspepsia is explained in part by symptom severity and duration but not by neuroticism, psychological morbidity, or a history of abuse.