BACKGROUND: Quality of life (QoL) has become increasingly important as an outcome measure in community-based psychiatry. QoL refers to an individual's sense of well-being and satisfaction with his current life conditions. It is measured both through objective social indicators and life domain-specific subjective indicators. People with a personality disorder (PD) or a major mental disorder (MMD) tend to show poor social adjustment, but their relative subjective QoL is not known. AIM: To compare the QoL of male outpatients in treatment for PD or MMD overall and by means of specific social and subjective indicators. METHODS: A sample of 135 men under treatment for PD in Dutch forensic outpatient facilities were compared with 79 men with MMD using the extended Dutch version of the Lancashire Quality of Life Profile (LQoLP). RESULTS: Almost all of the objective indicators of QoL were significantly poorer among men with MMD than those with PD, but the groups did not differ on domain-specific subjective ratings of QoL. Indeed, global subjective QoL was lower in the PD than in the MMD patient group. PD outpatients seemed to have a more complex concept of QoL than the MMD outpatients for whom almost half of the variance in subjective QoL rating was related to their everyday activities and their objective sense of safety. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Further study of QoL among PD patients would be warranted to test the extent to which subjective dissatisfaction is intrinsic to PD and to explore the possibility of improving it with targeted treatments.