Only a few studies have examined the risk of individual chronic health disorders on perimenopausal (i.e., around menopause) fractures in a single study. We evaluated the effect of chronic illnesses on fracture rate in a prospective cohort study of 3,078 women. These women were a stratified sample from the population base of 14,220 women aged 47-56 years and residing in the province of Kuopio in eastern Finland in 1989. Data on physician-diagnosed chronic diseases were collected by a baseline questionnaire in 1989. For certain diseases, questionnaire information of self-reported chronic disorders were compared with drug reimbursement data provided by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Axial bone mineral density (BMD) measurements from the femoral neck and lumbar spine were performed in 1989-91. Two hundred sixty-five (265) women experienced at least one fracture during the follow-up period of 3.6 years (SD+/-0.78). The first fracture during the follow-up period was taken to be the end-point event. The risk of follow-up fracture for an individual health disorder was estimated with the Cox's proportional hazards model. Several chronic health disorders increased the fracture risk in perimenopausal women. However, hypertension was a statistically significant (p=0.018) risk factor for fracture (adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-1.9), especially in overweight and obese (body mass index > or =28) women (HR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.4-3.0). In addition, coronary heart disease (adjusted HR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.13-2.76), hyperthyroidism (adjusted HR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0-2.9), epilepsy (adjusted HR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1-3.6), alcoholism (adjusted HR, 3.5; 95% CI, 1.3-9.5) and chronic hepatic disease (adjusted HR, 5.2; 95% CI, 1.7-16.4) predicted fracture. BMD was either normal or even elevated in disease groups. However, women with a fracture during the follow-up usually had decreased bone density, although the difference was statistically significant only in women with hypertension and hyperthyroidism. We conclude that hypertension, coronary heart disease, alcoholism, epilepsy and hyperthyroidism can markedly increase the risk of fracture in perimenopausal women and should be taken into account when assessing the risk of future fracture in an individual patient. Furthermore, in contrast to previous data, obesity alone does not increase the risk of perimenopausal fracture, but in association with hypertension the risk seems to be markedly elevated.