The relation between dyspnoea of presumed cardiac origin and disturbed left ventricular systolic function was studied in a group of 67 year old men from the general population of Gothenburg, Sweden. Forty two men with cardiac dyspnoea were identified and 45 controls were randomly selected from a screened cohort of 644 men. Dyspnoea was graded according to the World Health Organisation standard, and M mode echocardiography, carotid pulse tracing, an apex cardiogram, and phonocardiography were used to evaluate the grade of dyspnoea and its relation to systolic time intervals, left ventricular ejection indices, and wall stress. The dyspnoea grade was significantly related to the left ventricular end systolic dimension, to septal and posterior wall fractional thickening, and to ejection indices such as fractional shortening. The dyspnoea grade was also significantly correlated with the ratio of end systolic wall stress to end systolic volume index. There was a close relation between end systolic wall stress and mean velocity of circumferential fibre shortening adjusted for heart rate. This relation did not clearly show reduced inotropy in the dyspnoeic men. There was no relation between the degree of dyspnoea and the systolic time intervals. Among the systolic variables obtained by echocardiography the only abnormal finding in mild to moderate dyspnoea was an increased end systolic dimension. The grade of cardiac dyspnoea seemed to be related to the degree of systolic left ventricular dysfunction, which was considerably impaired in severe dyspnoea. In population studies left ventricular end systolic dimension and fractional shortening may provide sufficient information on systolic function without the need to assess variables that are independent of load.