Although research into atopic dermatitis (AD) has been dominated by the study of cells and chemical mechanisms over the last 40 years, the last 7 years has witnessed a respectable growth within the field of AD epidemiology. Significant advances include valid disease definitions that can be used in epidemiological studies, global prevalence studies, and studies which quantify the morbidity and economic cost of the disease. These have all helped to argue the case for more research into AD. Epidemiological studies demonstrating that AD is commoner in wealthier families, linkage with small family size, increased prevalence in migrant groups, and the increasing prevalence of the disease all argue strongly towards an important role for the environment in determining disease expression. Future research gaps include evaluation of gene–environment interactions, better studies of the natural history of AD, and better clinical trials that answer questions that are important to physicians and their patients.