Objectives: To conduct a population based case-control study with premorbid registration of potential risk factors to address the difficulty in identifying risk factors for aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH). SAH is rare in prospective studies, and retrospective studies may have a selection bias. Methods: The Tromsø health study is a population based survey of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 27 161 subjects. 26 cases of aneurysmal SAH were identified in which risk factors were registered before the bleeding. Four age and sex matched controls were selected for each case. A backward logistic regression analysis was conducted and odds ratios (ORs) for significant risk factors were calculated. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure, cigarette smoking habits, serum concentrations of lipoproteins, body mass index, and coffee consumption were analysed. Results: The crude annual incidence rate of aneurysmal SAH was 8.84/100 000 population. The proportion of current smokers was significantly (p = 0.003) higher in patients with SAH (73.1%) than in controls (41.3%). Drinking more than five cups of coffee per day was more common among patients (85%) than controls (59%) (p = 0.004). Mean (SD) systolic blood pressure was higher (p = 0.017) in patients (154.0 (32.5)) than in controls (136.3 (23.3)). Regression analysis showed that cigarette smoking (p = 0.04), systolic blood pressure (p < 0.0001), and coffee consumption (p = 0.004) were independent risk factors for SAH. The OR of current smokers versus never smokers was 4.55 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08 to 19.30) and the OR of drinking more than five cups of coffee a day was 3.86 (95% CI 1.01 to 14.73). The OR of an increase in systolic blood pressure of 20 mm Hg was 2.46 (95% CI 1.52 to 3.97). Conclusions: Cigarette smoking and hypertension are significant independent risk factors for aneurysmal SAH. A high coffee consumption may also predispose patients to aneurysmal SAH.