A population based probability sample of 958 persons (454 males and 504 females) aged 15 to 49 years was surveyed in Jamaica in late 1993 for lifestyle and behaviour risk factors. Demographic characteristics of the sample were comparable to the general population, 60% of persons visited a private doctor the last time that they were ill. Based on self-reporting, 18% of the women and 8% of the men were hypertensive and 4.8% of the women and 3.3% of the men were diabetic. 26% of the men and 8% of the women had never had their blood pressure taken. 40% of the women had never had a Papanicolaou smear, 29% had never had a breast examination and 33% said that they were overweight compared with 18% of men. Smoking cigarettes and marijuana was more common among men (36%) than women (11%), as were drinking alcohol (79% of men, 41% of women) and heavy alcohol use (30% of men, 9% of women). Injuries requiring medical attention in the previous five years were reported by 40% of the men and 15% of the women. 34% of the men and 12% of the women regularly carried a weapon and 18% of the sample had participated in or witnessed at least one violent act in the previous month. Most of the people interviewed used a contraceptive method; 10% were not sexually active. Significantly more men than women had two or more sexual partners in the previous year (54% vs 17%, p < 0.001) or reported ever having a sexually transmitted disease (29% vs 9%, p < 0.001). Younger persons were more sexually active and more likely to use condoms during their most recent sexual intercourse. Higher socio-economic status and educational level generally had a more positive effect on health behaviour. This survey provides vital information relevant to planning health promotion campaigns and assessing their success.