Background. Little is known about the prevalence of PTSD in primary-care settings and regarding the ability of primary-care physicians to detect PTSD. The current study examines prevalence of PTSD in a national sample of primary-care attenders and primary-care physician' detection of PTSD and general psychological distress in PTSD patients. Methods. Data are from a national study of 2975 primary-care attenders in Israel. Demographic data, responses to the GHQ-28, PTSD Inventory and physicians' diagnoses were examined. Results. Twenty-three per cent of all patients who attended clinics (N = 684) reported traumatic events, 39% of whom (males 37%, females 40%) met criteria for PTSD on the PTSD Inventory. Eighty per cent of the males and 92% of the females with PTSD were distressed according to the GHQ. According to physicians, 37% of persons who reported trauma (40% of the women, 32% of the men) suffered from psychological distress. Only 2% of patients meeting PTSD criteria on the self-report measure were given a diagnose of PTSD by physicians. Conclusions. Many primary-care patients suffer from PTSD, which is usually accompanied by major psychological distress. Attention by primary-care physicians to a history of trauma could improve physicians' detection of this disabling disorder.