OBJECTIVE: To clarify the importance of health beliefs and some socio-demographic data for accepting an invitation to take part in a health examination by comparing attenders and non-attenders with respect to health beliefs and social status. DESIGN: Multipractice study including questionnaires for men. SETTINGS: 65 GPs in two areas in the county of Aarhus, Denmark, invited 2452 40-49 year old men to a health examination for ischaemic heart disease. The examination was free in one area, whereas there was a fee in the other. All 1272 attenders and 423/1180 non-attenders completed the questionnaire. RESULTS: The attendance rate was 66% in the area with free examination and 37% in the fee-paying area. The attendance was significantly higher for cohabitants than for single men in both areas. There was a slightly higher attendance of men with an occupational training in both areas, but the difference was not significant. In general, all agreed that IHD is a serious disease, and that it can be prevented by a personal effort. There were only minor differences in the attenders' and non-attenders' health beliefs. CONCLUSION: The main conclusion is that 40-49 year old men are in general concerned about IHD. Whether they want to have a health examination for IHD depends mainly on its availability (exemplified here as fee versus free), since the differences were small with respect to health beliefs between attenders and non-attenders.