OBJECTIVES: This is the first study to estimate the prevalence of adjustment disorder (AjD) in the general population. A new conceptualisation of AjD as a stress response syndrome was applied, which allowed AjD to be assessed directly from its symptom profile, including intrusive, avoidance and failure-to-adapt symptoms (Maercker et al., Psychopathology 40:135-146, 2007). METHODS: Prevalence rates of distressing life events and AjD were estimated from a representative sample of the German general population (n = 2,512) with a broad age range (14-93 years). A questionnaire including a life events checklist and self-rating questions that assessed AjD symptoms and symptom duration were personally handed out by an interviewer. RESULTS: The prevalence of AjD fulfilling the criterion of clinically significant impairment was 0.9%; a further 1.4% of the sample was diagnosed with AjD without fulfilling the impairment criterion. In ~72.5% of AjD cases, symptoms had developed 6-24 months prior to assessment. AjD was most often associated with acute events such as moving or chronic stressors such as serious illness, conflicts at the respondent's job or with friends or neighbours (with ~5% conditional probability each). CONCLUSIONS: The results correspond with the few other studies that have examined the prevalence of AjD, even though a new conceptualisation of the disorder was used. Explorative results regarding the duration of AjD syndromes and symptoms call for further redefinition and empirical investigation of this under-researched mental condition.