The hygroscopic properties play a vital role for the direct and indirect effects of aerosols on climate, as well as the health effects of particulate matter (PM) by modifying the deposition pattern of inhaled particles in the humid human respiratory tract. Hygroscopic Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer (H-TDMA) instruments have been used in field campaigns in various environments globally over the last 25 yr to determine the water uptake on submicrometre particles at subsaturated conditions. These investigations have yielded valuable and comprehensive information regarding the particle hygroscopic properties of the atmospheric aerosol, including state of mixing. These properties determine the equilibrium particle size at ambient relative humidities and have successfully been used to calculate the activation of particles at water vapour supersaturation. This paper summarizes the existing published H-TDMA results on the size-resolved submicrometre aerosol particle hygroscopic properties obtained from ground-based measurements at multiple marine, rural, urban and free tropospheric measurement sites. The data is classified into groups of hygroscopic growth indicating the external mixture, and providing clues to the sources and processes controlling the aerosol. An evaluation is given on how different chemical and physical properties affect the hygroscopic growth.