We analysed physician fee-for-service use in British Columbia from 1974-75 to 1985-86. Over the study period use increased by 5.3% per year. This can be factored into increases attributable to changes in the age structure of the population (0.4% per year), general population growth (1.8%, for a combined annual "population effect" of 2.2%) and age-specific increases in per-capita use (3% per year). The average annual increase for people aged 75 years or more was 5.5% per capita. The area with the fastest growth in use by the elderly was specialist care, particularly diagnostic services. The average number of specialists seen by people aged 75 years or more doubled over the study period. Our results suggest that increased per-capita use among the elderly that is unrelated to aging of the population should be the main focus of future policy attention. Additional analyses are needed to determine the underlying dynamics of this dramatic increase in rates of use among the elderly.