Quality of life (QOL) was assessed in three groups of patients, consisting of 30 schizophrenic patients with duration of illness <2 years, 30 schizophrenic patients with duration of illness ≥2 years and 30 dysthymic patients. The diagnoses were made according to ICD-10. Two scales of quality of life were used, one of which was specific for schizophrenia, while the other was generic for all patients. On inter-group comparison the two schizophrenia groups did not show significant differences in quality of life, but on comparing schizophrenic and dysthymic patients, significant differences emerged. Dysthymic patients were significantly less satisfied than schizophrenic patients with duration of illness <2 years in the domain of physical health. In the domains of satisfaction with medication and leisure-time activities, both schizophrenic groups were significantly more satisfied than the dysthymic group. Comparison of the quality of life ratings of our patients with those of a well-known study from Sweden revealed some significant differences which relate to the domains of work, contacts, inner experience and leisure-time activities. Cultural factors are invoked to account for these differences. The need for refinement of assessment of quality of life in multi-racial and multi-ethnic contexts is stressed.