Much progress has been made in chronic kidney disease (CKD) epidemiology in the last decade to establish CKD as a condition that is common, harmful and treatable. The introduction of the new equations for estimating glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and the publication of international reference standards for creatinine and cystatin measurement paved the way for improved global estimates of CKD prevalence. The addition of albuminuria categories to the staging of CKD paved the way for research linking albuminuria and GFR to a wide range of renal and cardiovascular adverse outcomes. The advent of genome-wide association studies ushered in insights into genetic polymorphisms underpinning some types of CKD. Finally, a number of new randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses have informed evidence-based guidelines for the treatment and prevention of CKD. In this review, we discuss the lessons learnt from epidemiological investigations of the staging, etiology, prevalence and prognosis of CKD between 2007 and 2016.