Objectives Growth differentiation factor (GDF)-15 is attracting interest as a biomarker in several areas of medicine. We aimed to evaluate the reference range for GDF-15 in a general population, and to explore demographics, classical cardiovascular disease risk factors, and other cardiac biomarkers associated with GDF-15. Methods GDF-15 was measured in serum from 19,462 individuals in the Generation Scotland Scottish Family Health Study. Associations of cardiometabolic risk factors with GDF-15 were tested using adjusted linear regression. Among 18,507 participants with no heart disease, heart failure, or stroke, and not pregnant, reference ranges (median and 97.5th centiles) were derived by decade age bands and sex. Results Among males in the reference range population, median (97.5th centile) GDF-15 concentration at age <30 years was 537 (1,135) pg/mL, rising to 931 (2,492) pg/mL at 50–59 years, and 2,152 (5,972) pg/mL at ≥80 years. In females, median GDF-15 at age <30 years was 628 (2,195) pg/mL, 881 (2,323) pg/mL at 50–59 years, and 1847 (6,830) pg/mL at ≥80 years. Among those known to be pregnant, median GDF-15 was 19,311 pg/mL. After adjustment, GDF-15 was higher in participants with adverse cardiovascular risk factors, including current smoking (+26.1%), those with previous heart disease (+12.7%), stroke (+17.1%), heart failure (+25.3%), and particularly diabetes (+60.2%). GDF-15 had positive associations with cardiac biomarkers cardiac troponin I, cardiac troponin T, and N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). Conclusions These data define reference ranges for GDF-15 for comparison in future studies, and identify potentially confounding risk factors and mediators to be considered in interpreting GDF-15 concentrations.