Microalbuminuria is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease. The aim of this study was to investigate whether microalbuminuria is part of a cluster of risk factors, the insulin resistance syndrome (IRS), or whether it is only associated with, and presumably a complication of, hypertension and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). An age-, sex- and glucose tolerance-stratified random sample from a 50-75 year old general population (n = 622) was investigated. The urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio was measured in an early morning spot urine sample. Microalbuminuria was defined as an albumin-to-creatinine ratio greater than 2.0 mg/ mmol. We considered, as IRS-related variables, fasting hyperinsulinaemia, insulin resistance (IR; calculated from the formula of the homeostasis model assessment), dyslipidaemia, glucose intolerance, hypertension and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Dyslipidaemia was defined as levels of HDL-cholesterol in the lowest and/or levels of triglyceride in the highest tertile. Fasting insulin levels, IR and WHR were divided into tertiles; the highest tertiles were compared to the lowest tertiles. Age-, sex- and glucose tolerance-adjusted analyses showed microalbuminuria to be significantly associated with hypertension, NIDDM and WHR. In multiple logistic regression analyses, microalbuminuria showed independent associations with hypertension, NIDDM and WHR, with odds ratios (ORs [95% confidence interval]) of 3.33 (1.86-5.96), 2.26 (1.14-4.48) and 2.49 (1.09-5.70), respectively. No associations were found with impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinaemia, IR or dyslipidaemia. Multiple logistic regression analyses in diabetic and non-diabetic subjects separately showed that microalbuminuria was independently associated only with hypertension (ORs 4.31 and 2.69). In this Caucasian population, microalbuminuria was associated with hypertension, NIDDM and WHR and not with other variables of the IRS. It is therefore likely that microalbuminuria is a complication of hypertension and NIDDM, and not an integral part of the IRS.