BACKGROUND: Itch is a major symptom in dermatology but is little explored epidemiologically. Objective To describe the prevalence and the severity of itch, and to explore its relation to psychosocial factors. METHODS: The design was cross-sectional and population-based. A total of 40 880 adults in Oslo were invited to answer a questionnaire. RESULTS: Twenty-seven per cent report itch. Individuals reporting itch were younger, the majority were female, were non-Norwegian, had lower income, were more distressed, had experienced more negative life events and had poorer social support. Individuals with poor support who had experienced more negative life events reported more itch than individuals with good support (15. 6% compared to 10. 9%). The strong association with psychosocial factors was confirmed in a logistic regression. CONCLUSION: There is a strong association between itch and psychosocial factors in the general population.