People with asthma suffer from impaired health-related quality of life (HRQL), but the determinants of HRQL among asthmatics are not completely understood. The aim of this investigation was to study determinants of low HRQL in asthmatics and to study whether the determinants of HRQL differ between sexes and age groups. A cohort of three age groups in Sweden was investigated in 1990 using a questionnaire with focus on respiratory symptoms. To study quality of life, the generic instrument Gothenburg Quality of Life was used. The participants were also investigated with interviews, spirometry, and allergy testing. Asthma was diagnosed in 616 subjects. Fifty-eight per cent (n = 359) of the subjects were women; and 24% were smokers, 22% ex-smokers, and 54% were non-smokers. Women were more likely than men to report poor health-related quality of life. Respiratory symptoms severity was another independent determinant of a lower quality of life as well as airway responsiveness to irritants. Current and former smokers also reported lower quality of life. Finally, absenteeism from school and work was associated with lower quality of life. Factors such as sex, smoking habits, airway responsiveness to irritants, respiratory symptom severity, allergy, and absenteeism from school and work were associated with low HRQL in asthmatics.