Background: End colostomy rates following colorectal resection vary across institutions in high-income settings, being influenced by patient, disease, surgeon and system factors. This study aimed to assess global variation in end colostomy rates after left-sided colorectal resection. Methods: This study comprised an analysis of GlobalSurg-1 and -2 international, prospective, observational cohort studies (2014, 2016), including consecutive adult patients undergoing elective or emergency left-sided colorectal resection within discrete 2-week windows. Countries were grouped into high-, middle- and low-income tertiles according to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). Factors associated with colostomy formation versus primary anastomosis were explored using a multilevel, multivariable logistic regression model. Results: In total, 1635 patients from 242 hospitals in 57 countries undergoing left-sided colorectal resection were included: 113 (6⋅9 per cent) from low-HDI, 254 (15⋅5 per cent) from middle-HDI and 1268 (77⋅6 per cent) from high-HDI countries. There was a higher proportion of patients with perforated disease (57⋅5, 40⋅9 and 35⋅4 per cent; P < 0⋅001) and subsequent use of end colostomy (52⋅2, 24⋅8 and 18⋅9 per cent; P < 0⋅001) in low- compared with middle- and high-HDI settings. The association with colostomy use in low-HDI settings persisted (odds ratio (OR) 3⋅20, 95 per cent c.i. 1⋅35 to 7⋅57; P = 0⋅008) after risk adjustment for malignant disease (OR 2⋅34, 1⋅65 to 3⋅32; P < 0⋅001), emergency surgery (OR 4⋅08, 2⋅73 to 6⋅10; P < 0⋅001), time to operation at least 48 h (OR 1⋅99, 1⋅28 to 3⋅09; P = 0⋅002) and disease perforation (OR 4⋅00, 2⋅81 to 5⋅69; P < 0⋅001). Conclusion: Global differences existed in the proportion of patients receiving end stomas after left-sided colorectal resection based on income, which went beyond case mix alone.