A detailed cross-cultural analysis was carried out of demographic, social, family and diagnostic variables responsible for, or associated with, the admission of 460 sequentially admitted patients to an area psychiatric hospital (Valkenberg Hospital). All patients were socio-economically disadvantaged compared with the population from which they were drawn and socio-economic factors played a significant part in admission. Larger proportions of coloured and black schizophrenics and substance abusers were admitted, and this is related to socio-economic conditions and the fact that the population generally are younger. There were indications that the period of inpatient stay, particularly for coloured and black patients, was too short in many cases for meaningful preparation for discharge, and that supervision after discharge was inadequate. Treatment of the type offered by this hospital appears largely to achieve the diminution or control of aberrant or difficult behaviour and symptoms while functional impairment is little improved.