Background: Health-related quality of life (HRQL) is an accepted outcome measure in patients with mood and anxiety disorders. Yet, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the determinants. In this paper we test the hypothesis that it is associated with personality traits while controlling for mental disorders. Methods: A large sample of outpatients (n=640) with mood and anxiety disorders was studied. The empirically supported five factor model of normal personality traits was assessed using the NEO-FFI and includes: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Mental disorders were assessed with the CIDI, and HRQL with the SF-36. Results: Regression analyses revealed that the NEO-FFI scores, with the exception of conscientiousness, were significantly associated with SF-36 subscales and summary scores, independently from the mental disorders. The percentage of explained variance due to the personality traits was highest for the subscales Vitality (10.0%), Mental Health (13.3%) and the Mental Health Summary Score (9.5%). Furthermore, specific personality traits were related to specific SF-36 subscales. Conclusions: A low HRQL of patients with mood or anxiety disorders is not only determined by the disease or the current health but is also shaped by personality traits that are relatively stable throughout an individual's life time. © 2006 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.