A growing literature demonstrates life course influences on health in early old age. The present paper is the first to examine whether similar processes also influence quality of life in early old age. The question is theorised in terms of structured dependency and third age, and the life course pathways by which people arrive at these destinations in later life. The issues are investigated in a unique data set that contains health and life course information on some 300 individuals mostly aged 65-75 years, enhanced in 2000 by postal survey data on quality of life. Several types of life course effect are identified at conventional levels of statistical significance. Long-term influences on quality of life, however, are less marked than those on health. Quality of life in early old age appears to be influenced primarily by current contextual factors such as material circumstances and serious health problems, with the influence of the life course limited mostly to its shaping of an individual's circumstances in later life. The implication for policy is that disadvantage during childhood and adulthood does not preclude good quality of life in early old age.