The aim of the present multicenter study was to assess quality of life of Dutch dialysis patients 3 months after the start of chronic dialysis treatment. The quality of life was compared with the quality of life of a general population sample, and the impact of demographic, clinical, renal function, and dialysis characteristics on patients' quality of life was studied. New end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients who were started on chronic hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis in 13 dialysis centers in The Netherlands were consecutively included. Patients' self-assessment of quality of life was measured by the SF-36, a 36-item Short Form Health Survey Questionnaire encompassing eight dimensions: physical functioning, social functioning, role-functioning physical, role-functioning emotional, mental health, vitality, bodily pain, and general health perceptions. One hundred twenty hemodialysis and 106 peritoneal dialysis patients completed the SF-36. Quality of life of hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients was substantially impaired in comparison to the general population sample, particularly with respect to role-functioning physical and general health perceptions. Mean role-functioning physical and general health perceptions scores of the hemodialysis patients corresponded with the lowest scoring 8% and 12%, respectively, of the reference group. Mean role-functioning physical and general health perceptions scores of the peritoneal dialysis patients corresponded with the lowest scoring 10% and 12%, respectively, of the reference group. Hemodialysis patients showed lower levels of quality of life than peritoneal dialysis patients on physical functioning, role-functioning emotional, mental health, and pain. However, on the multivariate level, we could only demonstrate an impact of dialysis modality on mental health. A higher number of comorbid conditions, a lower hemoglobin level, and a lower residual renal function were independently related to poorer quality of life. The variability of the SF-36 scores explained by selected demographic, clinical, renal function, and dialysis characteristics was highest for physical functioning (29.7%). Explained variability of the other SF-36 dimensions ranged from 6.9% for general health perceptions to 15.4% for vitality. We conclude that quality of life of new ESRD patients is substantially impaired. Comorbid conditions, hemoglobin, and residual renal function could explain poor quality of life only to a limited extent. Further research exploring determinants and indices of quality of life in ESRD patients is warranted. From a clinical perspective, we may conclude that quality of life should be considered in the monitoring of dialysis patients.