BACKGROUND: The chronicity of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and effects of medical and surgical treatments probably affect the daily lives of patients and may thus impair their health-related quality of life and psychological well-being. METHODS: Health-related quality of life and psychological distress were investigated in a population-based Swedish sample of patients with IBD. A total of 492 patients, 331 with ulcerative colitis (UC) and 161 with Crohn disease (CD), filled out the Short Form-36 (SF-36), the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire (IBDQ) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scale. RESULTS: Patients with UC reported higher (superior) levels in all dimensions of health-related and disease-specific quality of life than did patients with CD. CONCLUSIONS: Having an ileostomy does not seem to affect patients' quality of life, while having ileoanal anastomosis appears to reduce patients' quality of life in several of the dimensions assessed. CD patients reported more anxiety and depression than did patients with UC. The higher psychological distress in the CD group could be explained by more severe symptoms of the disease. Having ileoanal anastomosis may lead to more anxiety and depression, while having an ileostomy does not.