This study was designed to assess the return to work, the poststroke depression and the quality of life after a cerebral infarction in young adults and was conducted on 71 consecutive young patients (aged 15-45 years) affected by a cerebral infarct who were hospitalized for the first time and discharged at least 1 year before the study. Data about risk factors, etiology, side and territory of stroke, social characteristics of the patient (age, sex, profession, educational level, family situation), poststroke seizures, recurrent stroke, other vascular events, and deaths were collected. Neurological deficits were graded with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Stroke Scale. Poststroke depression (PSD) was quantified using the DSM-IIIR criteria and the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale. Outcomes were rated with the Ranking Scale, the Barthel Index and the Glasgow Outcome Scale. Quality of life was assessed with the Sickness Impact Profile. Follow-up information was obtained by interview and neurological examination. Follow-up information was obtained in 65 patients at a mean of 31.7 +/- 13.0 (range 12-59) months, as 2 patients died and 4 were lost to follow-up and were thus excluded from this study. Poststroke seizures occurred in 7 patients (10.8%) and recurrent strokes in 4 patients (6.2%), but none were fatal. The outcome after stroke among survivors was usually good, since more than two-thirds of the patients (69.8%) reported no problem, 11.1% moderate handicap and one-fifth major handicap. Forty-six patients (73%) returned to work: the time period ranging from several days after stroke to 40 months, with a mean of 8 months. However, adjustments in their occupation were necessary for 12 patients (26.1%). PSD was common, since 48.31% of the patients were classified as depressed. PSD was associated with the localization of the infarct (carotid territory), a severe disability, a bad general outcome, and an absence of return to work. Their opinion about their quality of life was negative among approximately 30% of the patients, especially in emotional and alertness behaviors. social interaction, recreation and pastimes. The general outcome after cerebral infarct in young adults is usually good. However, the risk of a PSD is high, and only half of the patients had returned to their previous work. A remaining psychosocial handicap and depression of sexual activity impaired the quality of life. In multivariate analysis, a low NIH score at admission is a significant predictor for return to work, the absence of PSD, and a good quality of life.