The relationship between social variables and psychiatric service use in Victoria was investigated using a social indicators approach. Indicators were developed separately for the urban and rural areas of the state using 1986 census data. Principal components analysis was employed to reduce the data. Simple, unit weight indicators were developed and explained a considerable proportion of the variation in the rate of persons admitted to psychiatric facilities, the rate of admission episodes and the rate of occupied bed days for urban areas; a moderate amount of variation for these measures was accounted for by indicators developed for rural areas. The findings were considered in relation to both methodological issues and the role of other factors (e.g., accessibility and availability of psychiatric services) which may contribute to service use.