Skin diseases such as acne are sometimes thought of as unimportant, even trivial, when compared with diseases of other organ systems. To address this point directly, validated generic questionnaires were used to assess morbidity in acne patients and compare it with morbidity in patients with other chronic diseases. For 111 acne patients referred to a dermatologist, quality of life was measured using the Dermatology Life Quality Index, Rosenberg's measure of self-esteem, a version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) and the Short Form 36 (SF-36). Clinical severity was measured using the Leeds Acne Grade. Population quality of life data for the SF-36 instrument were available from a random sample of adult local residents (n = 9334) some of whom reported a variety of long-standing disabling diseases. All quality of life instruments showed substantial deficits for acne patients that correlated with each other but not with clinically assessed acne severity. The acne patients (a relatively severely affected group) reported levels of social, psychological and emotional problems that were as great as those reported by patients with chronic disabling asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, back pain or arthritis. Acne is not a trivial disease in comparison with other chronic conditions. This should be recognized in the allocation of health care resources.