Background Epidemiological studies have found reduced health-related quality of life (QoL) in patients with personality disorders (PDs), but few clinical studies have examined QoL in PDs, and none of them are from an ordinary psychiatric outpatient clinic (POC). We wanted to examine QoL in patients with PDs seen at a POC, to explore the associations of QoL with established psychiatric measures, and to evaluate QoL as an outcome measure in PD patients. Methods 72 patients with PDs at a POC filled in the MOS Short Form 36 (SF-36), and two established psychiatric self-rating measures. A national norm sample was compared on the SF-36. An independent psychiatrist diagnosed PDs and Axis-I disorders by structured interviews and rated the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF). All measurements were repeated in the 39 PD patients that attended the 2 years follow-up examination. Results PD patients showed high co-morbidity with other PDs and Axis I mental disorders, and they scored significantly lower on all the SF-36 dimensions than age- and gender-adjusted norms. Adjustment for co-morbid Axis I disorders had some influence, however. The SF-36 mental health, vitality, and social functioning were significantly associated with the GAF and the self-rated psychiatric measures. Significant changes at follow-up were found in the psychiatric measures, but only on the mental health and role-physical of the SF-36. Conclusion Patients with PDs seen for treatment at a POC have globally poor QoL. Both physical and mental dimensions of the SF-36 are correlated with established psychiatric measures in such patients, but significant changes in these measures are only partly associated with changes in the SF-36 dimensions.