This survey compared diabetic patients (n = 953) and population controls (n = 2366) in terms of socioeconomic and occupational factors, family life, leisure activity, health habits, perceived social support and quality of life. The differences between type I and type II diabetic patients and controls were examined by proportions adjusted for age. Type II diabetic men had a lower educational level and were more often retired, unemployed or unmarried than controls. Type II diabetics were also less likely to have fewer healthy behaviour patterns than controls. Type I diabetics assessed their social support as inadequate slightly more often than controls, though no major differences in perceived availability of social support were detected between study groups. Both diabetic groups reported a lower health-related quality of life than healthy controls. Thus a chronic illness such as diabetes seems to tax the individual's personal resources, leading to lower quality of life.