BACKGROUND Pruritus is a frequent symptom in many diseases; its prevalence in German adults is unknown. OBJECTIVE Our purpose was to assess the prevalence, severity and health care of chronic pruritus in the German working population. METHODS A cross-sectional observational study was conducted in employees of 144 German companies. Pruritus-specific data were obtained by standardized questions. RESULTS 11,730 people (53.2% male, 16-70 years, mean = 43.7 years) were suitable for analysis. The point prevalence of chronic pruritus (at least 6 weeks prior to data collection) was 16.8%. The prevalence increased with age from 12.3% (16-30 years) to 20.3% (61-70 years). A quarter of the affected persons had suffered from pruritus for >5 years, 47% had never sought medical advice, and 94% had not undergone any treatment. CONCLUSIONS Chronic pruritus is a prevalent symptom in the working age population. A high proportion of people affected are not medically treated.