OBJECTIVE: To determine whether social support contributes to better quality of life and psychological state of head and neck oncology patients. DESIGN: A structured questionnaire, administered orally to patients face-to-face, with specific questions about demographic and medical information and social support and two standardized scales; a cancer-specific quality of life scale and a depression scale. SETTING: Head and Neck Oncology Clinic, an institutional referral centre providing ambulatory care at the Camp Hill Medical Centre in Halifax, NS. PARTICIPANTS: Forty-five head and neck oncology patients (33 men, 12 women) who came for follow-up appointments at the clinic. One person did not complete the interview. Fifty patients were approached, but five were not included: one died before the interview, and four agreed to participate but were prevented by transportation or timing problems. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Scores on the Functional Living Index-Cancer Scale and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale. RESULTS: Four main factors predicted quality of life: satisfaction with family physician support, severity of cancer, sex of patient, and type of cancer. Three important predictors of psychological state were loss of appetite, family physician support, and sex of patient. CONCLUSION: Social support, particularly from family physicians, contributes greatly to better quality of life and psychological state for head and neck oncology patients.