The increase in life expectancy (LE) observed in Western societies, has resulted in a steep rise of older population. This stresses the importance of the research on aging, to better adequate health and social care organization and improve the quality of life (QoL). The aim of the EPEPP-1 (abbreviated from the Portuguese name: Estudo do Perfil de Envelhecimento da Populacao Portuguesa) study was to characterize the socio-demographic components of the elderly Portuguese population in order to disclose factors that could play a role in the aging process and in the elderly QoL. This observational descriptive study, was performed in 2672 individuals older than 54 years taking into account gender and the residence area (rural vs. urban). A questionnaire about social network (marital status, living alone, the hours spent alone, confidents), and social status (education, occupation) was applied. Social network score revealed significant age and gender trends, women and older people performing worst, but with no difference according to residence area. Almost a third was unmarried and spent eight or more hours per day alone, and a fifth lived alone. Social status revealed that being older female and resident in a rural area quoted worst in the prevalence of illiteracy and undifferentiated occupation. The authors concluded that social isolation, illiteracy and undifferentiated occupation are prevalent in Portuguese older population. Identification of further determinants of isolation, adjustment of procedures to be included in social networks and development of actions directed to education are important fields of intervention influencing the elderly QoL. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.