Despite increasing interest in the quality of life (QOL) of psychiatric patients in recent years, few studies have focused on the potential adverse effects of the illness on QOL during the period of untreated psychosis. Our study compares the QOL of patients with first-episode schizophrenia when they first presented to the psychiatric service with that of the normal population, and identifies possible relationships with various clinical parameters. One hundred and seventeen patients with schizophrenia (aged 14-28 years) who entered the Early Assessment Services for Young People with Psychosis (EASY) programme in Hong Kong from June 2001 to January 2004 were assessed with the MOS 36 item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the World Health Organization Quality of Life Measure, abbreviated Hong Kong version (WHOQOL-BREF(HK)). We compared their SF-36 scores with controls from the normal population matched by age, sex, marital status and educational level. We assessed clinical parameters including positive, negative and depressive symptoms by the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), the Scale for Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS), and the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). When compared with matched controls from the normal population, significantly lower scores in all of the eight scales of the SF-36 were found in our patient group (p < 0.005). Various QOL domain scores had significant inverse correlations with the total MADRS score. However, there was no significant correlation with other clinical parameters. Young patients with first-episode schizophrenia have poorer QOL in the period of untreated psychosis than their counterparts in the community. Amongst various clinical parameters, the severity of depressive symptoms correlates most with QOL.