Untreated osteoarthritis (OA) in the hip causes pain and reduced physical and social functioning. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of waiting time on health-related quality of life (HRQOL), functional condition and dependence on help at the time of surgery and during follow-up 1 year after surgery. A further aim was to elucidate possible differences between men and women. Two hundred and twenty-nine consecutively included patients with OA in the hip were interviewed when assigned to the waiting list, again 1 week prior to surgery with unilateral total hip replacement (THR), and 1 year after surgery. Health-related quality of life and function were measured using the Nottingham Health Profile, EuroQoL and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. The result showed that the average waiting time was 239 days, that 15% of the patients were operated on within 3 months, and that 21% had to wait more than 6 months. At the time of surgery, HRQOL had deteriorated significantly (p < 0.05) and the number of patients receiving support from relatives had increased from 31% to 58% during the wait. At the 1-year follow-up, both HRQOL and functional condition had improved significantly despite the wait, and the need for support from relatives had decreased to 11% (p < 0.001). In conclusion, long waiting time for THR is detrimental to patients' HRQOL causing reduced functional condition, pain and increased need for support from relatives, which limit the independence in daily life.