Chronic long-term patients who were residents in psychiatric nursing homes at a given point in time were traced six years later. Over this period, there had been deep cuts in the number of psychiatric beds in the county in question; we wanted to assess how the patients now perceived their quality of life. All 107 patients were traced; of the 75 who were still alive, 74 took part in the study and were visited at their place of residence. 42 patients, mean age 56.9 years, were able to respond to personal questions regarding social contact, loneliness and quality of life. Health care providers were the most important persons in the patients' networks. Most patients reported a satisfactory quality of life; those who lived outside institutions (N = 21) tended to be more satisfied than those in residential care, they were more socially active and had better contact with their families. The variables loneliness, satisfaction with neighbourhood and leisure activities explained 63% of the variance in quality of life.