The role of stressful life events in the progress of various skin conditions was studied retrospectively in patients who presented with either psoriasis (where there is some agreement about the importance of stress), urticaria, acne, alopecia and non-atopic eczema (where there is some uncertainty regarding the role of stress), or malignant melanoma, fungal infection, basal cell carcinoma and melanocytic naevi (where stress is considered less relevant). When patients in the three groups were matched for age, those with psoriasis were more likely to report that the experience of stress pre-dated the onset and exacerbations of their condition than patients with other skin diseases. For the psoriasis patients the most common types of life events were family upsets (such as bereavements), and work or school demands, but chronic difficulties were also common. There was no relationship between the severity of stress and time to onset or exacerbations. The results support the notion that stress is more likely to be associated with the onset of psoriasis than other conditions, but also that there may be considerable individual variation in the ability to cope, suggesting that psychological interventions may be helpful for particular patients.