Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has become a serious public health problem because of its associated morbidity, premature mortality and attendant healthcare costs. The rising number of persons with CKD is linked with ageing population structure and an increased prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and obesity. There is an inherited risk associated with developing CKD as evidenced by familial clustering and differing prevalence rates across ethnic groups. Earlier studies to determine the inherited risk factors for CKD rarely identified genetic variants that were robustly replicated. However, improvements in genotyping technologies and analytical methods are now helping to identify promising genetic loci aided by international collaboration and multi-consortia efforts. More recently, epigenetic modifications have been proposed to play a role in both the inherited susceptibility to CKD and, importantly, to explain how the environment dynamically interacts with the genome to alter an individual's disease risk. Genome-wide, epigenome-wide and whole transcriptome studies have been performed and optimal approaches for integrative analysis are being developed. This review summarises recent research and the current status of genetic and epigenetic risk factors influencing CKD using population-based information.