The identification of adults with severe growth hormone (GH) deficiency (GHD) is not straightforward. The insulin tolerance test remains the gold standard diagnostic test, although other stimuli such as GH-releasing hormone-arginine are gaining acceptance. Insulin-like growth factor-I has a poor diagnostic sensitivity in adult-onset GHD, but is more useful in the subgroup of adults with childhood-onset GHD. Therapeutic developments include increasing recognition of the need to continue GH therapy beyond final height in young adults with severe GHD on retesting. Consensus guidelines have provided a useful algorithm to identify individuals requiring retesting and the number of tests needed. The concept of partial GHD, recognized by paediatric endocrinologists for many years, is being examined in adults with hypothalamic-pituitary disease. Preliminary evidence suggests that this entity is associated with metabolic and anthropometric abnormalities intermediate between those in severe GHD and in healthy controls. It remains to be seen whether this subgroup will derive benefit from GH therapy. To date, therapeutic benefits of GH have been demonstrated only in adults with severe GHD. It is, therefore, imperative that these individuals are unequivocally identified; the diagnosis becomes more uncertain in the presence of obesity, increasing age, and in the absence of additional pituitary hormone deficits.