OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether health-related quality of life (HRQOL) measures predict health care utilization and mortality in a cohort of veterans with self-reported physician-diagnosed arthritis. METHODS: A cohort of veterans from the Upper Midwest Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) was mailed a self-administered questionnaire that was composed of the SF-36V (modified from SF-36 for use in veterans) and questions regarding demographics, current smoking status, limitation of activities of daily living (ADLs), and preexisting physician-diagnosed medical conditions, including arthritis. Within subjects reporting physician-diagnosed arthritis, we analyzed the associations between the SF-36V component summary scales (physical and mental component summary, PCS and MCS, respectively) and the occurrence of any hospitalization, number of hospitalizations, number of outpatient visits, and mortality, for the year after survey administration, using multivariable regression analyses. RESULTS: Of 34,440 survey responders who answered a question regarding arthritis, 18,464 (58%) subjects reported physician-diagnosed arthritis. Arthritic patients in the lowest tertile of PCS scores had significantly higher odds of any hospitalization (Odds ratio (OR) 1.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) [1.25-1.76]) and mortality (OR 1.69, 95% CI [1.18-2.42]), and a significantly higher number of hospitalizations/year (Rate ratio (RR) 1.09, 95% CI [1.05-1.13]) and outpatient visits/year (RR 1.07, 95% CI [1.03-1.11]). Arthritic patients in the lowest tertile of MCS scores had significantly higher odds of any hospitalization (OR 1.20, 95% CI [1.02-1.41]), mortality (OR 2.14, 95% CI [1.56-2.94]), and a significantly higher number of hospitalizations/year (RR 1.05, 95% CI [1.02-1.09]) and outpatient visits/year (RR 1.07, 95% CI [1.03-1.11]). CONCLUSIONS: HRQOL, as assessed by the SF-36V, predicts future inpatient and outpatient health care utilization and mortality in veterans with self-report of physician-diagnosed arthritis. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.