With improvements in mortality in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the functional status of these patients, assessed using health-related quality of life (HRQoL) instruments, is increasingly being recognised as an important outcome measure in clinical research. Domains of HRQoL of particular importance to SLE patients include fatigue, ability to work, good health, independence, social and family life, learned helplessness (reflecting the unpredictability of lupus), pain and the home environment. The SF-36 currently appears to be the best available generic instrument for the assessment of HRQoL in SLE, and is likely to be complemented by several newly-developed disease-specific HRQoL instruments. It has been shown that SLE patients have poorer functional status than the general population, and that specific manifestations of SLE (disease activity, previous renal involvement and fibromyalgia) may influence HRQoL. HRQoL in SLE patients has been improved by (1) psycho-educational interventions including telephone counselling, a self-help course, group psychotherapy; (2) therapies including Riquent, belimumab, mycophenolate mofetil, dehydroepiandrosterone, oestrogen therapy and a cholesterol- lowering diet. Additional research is needed to identify strategies which can improve HRQoL in SLE patients.