Blood pressure variability (BPV) has been associated with cardiovascular events; however, the prognostic significance of short-term BPV remains uncertain. As uncertainty also remains as to which measure of variability most accurately describes short-term BPV, this study explores different indices and investigates their relationship with subclinical target organ damage (TOD). We used data from the Mitchelstown Study, a cross-sectional study of Irish adults aged 47-73 years (n=2047). A subsample (1207) underwent 24-h ambulatory BP monitoring (ABPM). As measures of short-term BPV, we estimated the s.d., weighted s.d. (wSD), coefficient of variation (CV) and average real variability (ARV). TOD was documented by microalbuminuria and electrocardiogram (ECG) left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). There was no association found between any measure of BPV and LVH in both unadjusted and fully adjusted logistic regression models. Similar analysis found that ARV (24 h, day and night), s.d. (day and night) and wSD were all univariately associated with microalbuminuria and remained associated after adjustment for age, gender, smoking, body mass index (BMI), diabetes and antihypertensive treatment. However, when the models were further adjusted for the mean BP the association did not persist for all indices. Our findings illustrate choosing the appropriate summary measure, which accurately captures that short-term BPV is difficult. Despite discrepancies in values between the different measures, there was no association between any indexes of variability with TOD measures after adjustment for the mean BP.Journal of Human Hypertension advance online publication, 19 March 2015; doi:10.1038/jhh.2015.18.