Objective: Emergency surgery is a highly stressful life event. Patients experience distressing anxiety both before and after surgery and this anxiety affects their recovery process. The aim of the present study is to examine variables related to pre- and postoperative anxiety in emergency surgery patients. Methods: The sample consisted of 146 emergency surgery patients who had abdominal surgery in an emergency surgery clinic. The research instruments were administered before and after the surgery. State Anxiety Inventory (STAI-A State), Anxiety Specific to Surgery Questionnaire (ASSQ), a scale tapping fears and worries specific to surgery developed for the present study, Ways of Coping Inventory (WCI), and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) were administered. Data analysis: Data were analyzed by using the appropriate programs of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Results: There was a significant drop in anxiety from the pre- to the postoperative period. Female patients had higher preoperation anxiety than males. Females and males did not differ in anxiety at the postoperation period. Being female, waiting for primary suture for peptic ulcer perforation operation, and helplessness and self-blaming coping appeared as significant predictors of anxiety specific to surgery. Being female and awaiting for primary suture for peptic ulcer perforation were significant predictors of preoperative state anxiety. Finally, years of education were negatively and use of active coping was positively related to postoperative state anxiety. Conclusion: Patient sociodemographic and psychological characteristics and type of surgery need to be considered for identifying patients at risk of experiencing anxiety both before and after surgery and psychological support and clinical management needs to be tailored to the needs of the patients to alleviate their anxiety. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.