OBJECTIVE: To examine the differences in the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of Finnish women with coronary artery disease (CAD) (n = 91) in comparison with Finnish men with CAD (n = 189). Healthy women (n = 990) served as a control group. DESIGN: Prospective, cross-sectional survey. SETTING: Surgical and medical clinics at the University of Oulu, Finland. PATIENTS: Twenty-one women underwent coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), 40 women underwent percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), and 30 women received medication for treatment of CAD. The patients in the medication group were taking beta blockers (81%), long-acting nitrates (86%), calcium channel blockers (43%), aspirin (79%), and lipid-lowering drugs (18%). OUTCOME MEASURES: The Nottingham Health Profile (NHP), which consists of six dimensions: energy, sleep, pain, emotional reactions, social isolation, and physical mobility. Higher mean indexes signify lower HRQOL. INTERVENTION: The patients referred to CABG and PTCA procedures were interviewed and asked to fill in the questionnaire on the day before the operation. They were instructed to describe their HRQOL over the preceding 3 months. The patients in the medication group were mailed the NHP questionnaire. RESULTS: Women with CAD reported significantly poorer HRQOL than age-matched women in the healthy sample, as measured by the following dimensions of the NHP: energy, sleep, pain, emotional reactions, and physical mobility. This indicates the NHP dimensions affected by CAD among women. HRQOL for women with CAD was lower than that of men with CAD. The mean indexes of four of the six NHP dimensions, energy, sleep, emotional reactions, and physical mobility were higher for women with CAD than men with CAD in the two youngest age groups. Social isolation was most common in the youngest age group among both women and men with CAD. In women with CAD, emotional reactions and social isolation were most clearly related to demographic characteristics such as traumatic life experiences, depression, financial situation, and smoking. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that the subjective HRQOL should be considered along with the clinical severity of the disease in the evaluation of CAD. The findings further shed light on the HRQOL of especially young women with CAD, the female and male patients' referral for treatment, and the use of the NHP instrument among patients with CAD.