In a prospective study the criteria and characteristics associated with the admission of acutely ill psychiatric patients to in-patient or day hospital care were examined. Over a four-month period, 54 patients were admitted to hospital and 43 to a day hospital. There were significantly more schizophrenics in the hospital. Day hospital patients were significantly younger, had shorter psychiatric histories, were considered less severely ill and had more insight into their illness. Hospital patients had poorer employment histories, and perceived their families as less supportive; admission had more often been requested by them or their families.