The aim of the present was to define prognosis and life expectancy in patients with chronic liver disease of different etiologies and to relate them to an age- and sex-matched normal population. After a follow-up of 15 years, life expectancy of 620 patients with chronic liver disease was retrospectively calculated and compared with an age- and sex-matched normal population. Among patients with cirrhosis, prognosis was dependent upon Child classification (P = 0.001). Patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and fatty liver disease were younger (P = 0.01) and had a lower life expectancy than patients with other causes of chronic liver disease (P = 0.004). Patients with hepatitis B and hepatitis C cirrhosis showed a comparable prognosis and a significantly lower life expectancy than the age- and sex-matched population. Cryptogenic and autoimmune liver diseases showed a comparable life expectancy but a significantly shorter life expectancy than the normal population. In patients with alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency-associated cirrhosis, a high viral coinfection rate was found (P = 0.01). For patients with noncirrhotic hemochromatosis, prognosis was poorer than that for the age- and sex-matched population. In patients with asymptomatic primary biliary cirrhosis, chronic persistent hepatitis B, and alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency without cirrhosis, life expectancy was equal to that of the normal population. Prognosis and life expectancy in chronic liver disease depend on stage, cause, and symptoms of chronic liver disease; age; and possibilities of treatment. In patients with hereditary liver disease, additional viral infection of alcohol abuse lead to a significant deterioration of life expectancy. Patients with alcoholic chronic liver disease have the poorest prognosis.