"Quality of life" (QOL) measurement reflects the impact of a disease on the daily life of a patient, and this can be used as an outcome measure in clinical trials. QOL measurements are rarely used in patients with neuromuscular disease. The aim of this study was to determine whether QOL is reduced in chronic polyneuropathy, whether there is a relationship between QOL and objective measures of disease severity, and whether measuring QOL is a useful addition to the assessment of severity of polyneuropathy. We measured QOL in 90 patients with chronic axonal polyneuropathy (33 with hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy type II and 57 with chronic idiopathic axonal polyneuropathy) using the RAND 36-item Health Survey questionnaire (RAND-36). We compared the results with the QOL of a reference population, with summed motor and sensory scores, and with the Rankin scale for handicap. Patients had worse scores than the reference population on seven of eight areas of the RAND-36. Patients with both low motor and low sensory scores rated lower in physical and emotional areas than less impaired patients. A low Rankin score was related only to physical domains. We conclude that in patients with chronic axonal polyneuropathy the severity of disease can be assessed with a general QOL instrument, and that this provides additional information, particularly on areas related to emotional and social functioning.