Objectives: Cerebral blood flow (CBF) estimates from arterial spin labelling (ASL) show unexplained variability in older populations. We studied the impact of variation of haematocrit (Hct) on CBF estimates in a tri-ethnic elderly population. Materials and methods: Approval for the study was obtained from the Fulham Research Ethics Committee and participants gave written informed consent. Pseudo-continuous arterial spin labelling was performed on 493 subjects (age 55–90) from a tri-ethnic community-based cohort recruited in London. CBF was estimated using a simplified Buxton equation, with and without correction for Hct measured from blood samples. Differences in perfusion were compared, stratified by sex, ethnicity and diabetes. Results of Student’s t tests were reported with effect size. Results: Hct adjustment decreased CBF estimates in all categories except white European men. The decrease for women was 2.7 (3.0, 2.4) mL/100 g/min) (mean (95% confidence interval (CI)), p < 0.001 d = 0.38. The effect size differed by ethnicity with estimated mean perfusion in South Asian and African Caribbean women found to be lower by 3.0 (3.6, 2.5) mL/100 g/min, p < 0.001 d = 0.56 and 3.1 (3.6, 2.5) mL/100 g/min), p < 0.001 d = 0.48, respectively. Estimates of perfusion in subjects with diabetes decreased by 1.8 (2.3, 1.4) mL/100 g/min, p < 0.001 d = 0.23) following Hct correction. Correction for individual Hct altered sample frequency distributions of CBF values, especially in women of non-European ethnicity. Conclusion: ASL-derived CBF values in women, non-European ethnicities and individuals with diabetes are overestimated if calculations are not appropriately adjusted for individual Hct. Key Points: • CBF quantification from ASL using a fixed Hct of 43.5%, as recommended in the ISMRM white paper, may lead to erroneous CBF estimations particularly in non-European and female subjects. • Individually measured Hct values improve the accuracy of CBF estimation and, if these are not available, an adjusted value according to gender, ethnicity or diabetes status should be considered. • Hct-corrected ASL could be potentially important for CBF threshold decision making in the fields of neurodegenerative disease and neuro-oncology.