Diverticular disease (DD) is an age-related disorder of the large bowel which may affect half of the population over the age of 65 in the UK. This high prevalence ranks it as one of the most common bowel disorders in western nations. The majority of patients remain asymptomatic but there are associated life-threatening co-morbidities, which, given the large numbers of people with DD, translates into a considerable number of deaths per annum. Despite this public health burden, relatively little seems to be known about either the mechanisms of development or causality. In the 1970s, a model of DD formulated the concept that diverticula occur as a consequence of pressure-induced damage to the colon wall amongst those with a low intake of dietary fiber. In this review, we have examined the evidence regarding the influence of ageing, diet, inflammation and genetics on DD development. We argue that the evidence supporting the barotrauma hypothesis is largely anecdotal. We have also identified several gaps in the knowledge base which need to be filled before we can complete a model for the etiology of diverticular disease.