OBJECTIVE: The aim of this first phase of a cross-sectional study from Germany was to investigate whether proximity of residence to mobile phone base stations as well as risk perception is associated with health complaints. METHODS: The researchers conducted a population-based, multi-phase, cross-sectional study within the context of a large panel survey regularly carried out by a private research institute in Germany. In the initial phase, reported on in this paper, 30,047 persons from a total of 51,444 who took part in the nationwide survey also answered questions on how mobile phone base stations affected their health. A list of 38 health complaints was used. A multiple linear regression model was used to identify predictors of health complaints including proximity of residence to mobile phone base stations and risk perception. RESULTS: Of the 30,047 participants (response rate 58.6%), 18.7% of participants were concerned about adverse health effects of mobile phone base stations, while an additional 10.3% attributed their personal adverse health effects to the exposure from them. Participants who were concerned about or attributed adverse health effects to mobile phone base stations and those living in the vicinity of a mobile phone base station (500 m) reported slightly more health complaints than others. CONCLUSIONS: A substantial proportion of the German population is concerned about adverse health effects caused by exposure from mobile phone base stations. The observed slightly higher prevalence of health complaints near base stations can not however be fully explained by attributions or concerns.