We determined the secular trends in the number and incidence of the elderly's minimal trauma rib fractures (typically caused by a fall from standing height or less) in Finland in 1970-1994 by collecting from the National Hospital Discharge Register all patients aged 60 years or more who were treated in Finnish hospitals in 1970-72, 1974-75, 1978-80, 1983-85, 1988-89, and 1991-94 for first rib fracture. The age-adjusted incidence of fractures slightly increased in both sexes, from 36 (1970) to 40 (1994) in women, and from 63 to 71 in men; in younger patients (aged 20-49 years) this incidence decreased from 10 to 6. The age-specific incidences increased especially in women aged 85 years and over, from 108 (1970) to 251 (1994). If this trend continues, the total number of hospital-admitted, minimal trauma rib fractures in Finnish elderly will increase from 576 (1994) to almost 1000 in the year 2010. We conclude that the number of the elderly's minimal trauma rib fractures is increasing in Finland, largely due to the increasing number of elderly in the Finnish population. Therefore, effective preventive measures are needed to keep this problem under control.