The aim of this study was to describe life satisfaction prospectively in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to investigate its correlation with disease activity. The early RA group was compared with RA patients with longstanding disease and with a reference group. Gender differences were also compared. Patients with early RA, treated by a multidisciplinary team, reported their life satisfaction by completing a questionnaire. Disease activity score, patient global assessment, and pain were scored at onset of disease and after two years. The patients with early RA were less satisfied with life as a whole at disease onset compared with the reference group, as was a cohort of patients with longstanding disease. Patients with early RA also reported low levels of satisfaction with self-care activities, work, and sexual life. The women reported themselves more satisfied than men. After two years, a slight increase in the reported levels of satisfaction could be seen for life as a whole and for five of the eight domains. No correlation was found between disease activity variables and satisfaction with life as a whole. There were, however, positive correlations between disease activity and satisfaction both with partnership and with family life after two years, i.e. the higher disease activity the higher satisfaction with partnership relation and family life. In contrast, patients with greater disease activity were less satisfied with self-care activities. The results of this study indicate that greater effort is needed to assist patients with early RA to cope with problems concerning self-care activities, sexual life, and work.