The goal of this study is to determine the prevalence of 23 common diseases in subjects with a chronic airway obstruction and in controls. All subjects with a known diagnosis by their general practitioner of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and who were 40 years and older were selected (n = 1145). Subjects who were willing to participate (n = 591) and who appeared to have an irreversible airway obstruction (n = 290) were included. To recruit controls, a random sample was taken of 676 individuals who were 40 years and older and who were not diagnosed as having asthma or COPD by their general practitioner. Of these 676 individuals 421 were willing to participate. The presence of diseases was determined by using a questionnaire. One hundred and ninety-four subjects (73%) and 229 controls (63%) were shown to be suffering from one or more (other) diseases. In both groups, locomotive diseases, high blood pressure, insomnia and heart disease were most common. Locomotive diseases, insomnia, sinusitis, migraine, depression, stomach or duodenal ulcers and cancer were significantly more common in the subject group than in the control group. For both clinical and research purposes, it is important to consider the presence of diseases in patients with a chronic airway obstruction.