AIM: To assess the impact of cataract surgery in nursing home residents on health-related quality of life, as compared to those who have cataracts but who do not undergo surgery. METHODS: A prospective cohort study enrolled 30 nursing home residents (>or=60 years old) who had cataracts and underwent cataract surgery, and evaluated vision-targeted and generic health-related quality of life and depressive symptoms before and approximately 4 months after surgery. This cataract surgery group was compared to 15 nursing home residents who had cataracts but who did not have surgery, over the same timeframe. RESULTS: Visual acuity for near and distance and contrast sensitivity improved following cataract surgery (p<0.001). Adjusting for age differences in the two groups, the cataract surgery group exhibited significant score improvement in the general vision (p = 0.005), reading (p = 0.001), psychological distress (p = 0.015), and social interaction (p = 0.033) subscales of the Nursing Home Vision-targeted Health-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire and the VF-14 (p = 0.004). There were no group differences in the SF-36, Geriatric Depression Scale or the Cataract Symptom Score. CONCLUSION: Nursing home residents who underwent cataract surgery because of functional problems experienced significant improvements in their vision-targeted health-related quality of life, in addition to dramatically improved vision.