Movements between dependency states, institutionalization and death are investigated in a general practice cohort of people aged 75 years and over with follow-up at 5 and 7 years from initial interview. Initially, 1203 people were interviewed, 1124 living in the community and 79 in institutions. By 5 years, 42% (510) had died and by 7 years 58% (700) had died. Dependency was defined as requiring help or aids with at least one activity of daily living (ADL). Of those initially independent, 34% were still independent 7 years later. Women at each age were more likely to become dependent whilst men had higher mortality. Those rating their health as fair or poor were more likely to lose independence at both 5 and 7 years than those rating their health as good. These differences remained, even after adjustment for age, sex and baseline ADL status. With the assumption that once institutionalized a person did not return to live in the community (an assumption upheld by the present data), 7% (79/1124) of those initially resident in the community were institutionalized during the 7 years; the rates for men (6%) being slightly lower than for women (7.5%).