The total absence of hormones such as cortisol or thyroxine causes death within weeks. Lack of estrogen or testosterone is followed by infertility and impaired sexual functioning. Relative deficiencies of almost all classical hormones have a substantial impact on quality of life (QOL). However, in contrast to virtually all aspects of metabolism, QOL is difficult to measure. Only recently have tests been developed to assess general QOL, whereas specific tests address those aspects of QOL affected only in specific situations or disease states. For example, in rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic disabling diseases, the use of measures of QOL to assess treatment modalities is almost routine. In diseases with overt metabolic disturbances attention is generally focused on changes in metabolic parameters and the issue of QOL is neglected. Although very few practising endocrinologists will not support the idea that they specialize in improving QOL, its assessment in patients with endocrinological disorders began only recently--in patients with growth hormone (GH) deficiency only 10 years ago. It became apparent that GH deficiency in adult life is unmistakably followed by changes in parameters that determine QOL. In adults with childhood-onset GH deficiency, the unemployment rate is higher and the marriage rate lower than in the general population. Another symbol of success in life, the possession of a driver's licence, is less frequently attained by these patients. Most patients with adult-onset GH deficiency score unfavourably in questionnaires such as the Nottingham Health Profile. GH substitution is now available on a scale large enough to enable studies to be made of the effects on QOL in adults. The first studies were reported in 1989. However, only in the last few years have studies appeared in which sufficient number of patients and sufficient length of treatment were reported to allow a more objective judgement of the effectiveness of GH substitution. Although there is still room for improvement in the methods used to assess the effects of GH treatment on QOL in GH-deficient adults, there is now little doubt as to its beneficial effect.