OBJECTIVES--To assess anxiety, depression, and social adjustment in patients awaiting coronary artery bypass surgery. DESIGN--Patient completed questionnaire study. SETTING--Regional cardiothoracic centre. PATIENTS--109 questionnaires were sent to patients on the waiting list of two cardiothoracic surgeons. Sixty eight (62%) were returned and 15 (22%) of the respondents were women. There was no difference in the response rates for men (53/84) 63% and women (15/25) 60%. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Anxiety and depression were assessed by the hospital anxiety and depression (HAD) scale. Social functioning was assessed by several nine point rating scales on which patients indicated how their work, family relationships, social activities, private leisure activities, and home management were impaired. Patients also indicated the severity of their cardiac symptoms on a questionnaire based on the New York Heart Association classification for the assessment of the functional state of patients with heart disease. RESULTS--On the HAD scale 19 (28%) patients scored in the clinically significant range for anxiety. Time spent on the waiting list was positively and significantly related to anxiety (p = 0.05). Thirty two (47%) patients scored in the clinically significant range for depression. Time spent on the waiting list was positively and significantly related to depression (p = 0.005). Positive and significant relations were found between time spent on the waiting list and impairment of work (p = < 0.0001), family relationships (p = < 0.0001), private leisure activities (p = < 0.0001), and social activities (p = 0.004). No correlation was found between any of the above variables and the indicated level of clinical symptoms. CONCLUSIONS--This study documents previously unreported associations between the time patients wait for coronary artery surgery and levels of anxiety, depression, and social functioning. Conclusions regarding the causes of these symptoms cannot be made from this small population of patients but these results do suggest that these associations should be studied further.