The aim of the present study was to investigate the prevalence of hyperhomocysteinaemia (HHCY; total plasma homocysteine (tHcy) concentration >15 μmol/l) and its major determinants in healthy Chinese northerners. A descriptive and cross-sectional study was conducted in Shaanxi Province, China. The study sample included 2645 participants (1042 men and 1603 women) aged >20 years. Demographic characteristics and lifestyle factors were assessed via questionnaire interviews and physical examination. Plasma levels of homocysteine and folate and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene polymorphism were determined according to standard methods. The prevalence of HHCY was 67·7 % (81·4 % in men and 58·8 % in women). The geometric mean of tHcy concentration was 19·1 μmol/l. The OR of HHCY were 0·44 (95 % CI 0·34, 0·57) for women v. men; 1·95 (95 % CI 1·41, 2·70), 1·41 (95 % CI 1·05, 1·88) and 0·76 (95 % CI 0·64, 0·89) for participants with smoking and alcohol drinking cessation and improved physical activity levels, respectively; 0·25 (95 % CI 0·17, 0·38), 0·33 (95 % CI 0·22, 0·49) and 0·56 (95 % CI 0·36, 0·88) for participants with an education level of elementary school, secondary school and university v. illiterate, respectively; 1·41 (95 % CI 1·13, 1·75) and 3·05 (95 % CI 2·35, 3·97) for participants with CT and TT v. CC genotype at MTHFR 677C → T polymorphism, respectively. These results demonstrate that the prevalence of HHCY is considerably high in Chinese northerners, especially in TT subjects, suggesting that implementation of tHcy-lowering strategies, such as lifestyle changes, is necessary.