This study presents the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a non-monetary economic measure of impact, lost to dengue in Puerto Rico for the period 1984-1994. Data on the number of reported cases, cases with hemorrhagic manifestations, hospitalizations, and deaths were obtained from a surveillance system maintained at the Dengue Branch, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (San Juan, PR). The reported cases were divided into two age groups (0-15 years old and >15 years old), and then multiplied by predetermined factors (10 for 0-15 years; 27 for >15 years) to allow for age-related under-reporting of cases. Severity of dengue was modeled by classifying cases into three groups: dengue fever, dengue with severe manifestations, and hospitalized cases. Each group was assigned a different number of days lost because of dengue-related disability. Dengue caused an average of 658 DALYs per year per million population (SE = 114, range = 145-1,519). A multivariate sensitivity analysis, which simultaneously altered the values of six input variables, produced a mean of 580 DALYs/year/million population, with a maximum average of 1,021 DALYs/year/million population, and a maximum, single-year estimate for 1994 of 2,153 DALYs/million population. The most important input was the number of days lost to classic dengue. The DALYs/year/million population lost to dengue in Puerto Rico are much greater than previous estimates concerning the impact of dengue hemorrhagic fever alone. The loss to dengue is similar to the losses per million population in the Latin American and Caribbean region attributed to any of the following diseases or disease clusters; the childhood cluster (polio, measles, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus), meningitis, hepatitis, or malaria. The loss is also of the same order of magnitude as any one of the following: tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases (excluding human immunodeficiency virus), tropical cluster (e.g., Chagas' disease, leishmaniasis), or intestinal helminths. The results objectively suggest that when governments and international funding agencies allocate resources for research and control, dengue should be given a priority equal to many other infectious diseases that are generally considered more important.