Inguinal hernia repair is one of the most common surgical procedures undertaken in the NHS. Despite this, no previous work has examined quality of life in this patient group. This study examines quality of life preoperatively and at 3 and 6 months postoperatively in 140 patients undergoing inguinal hernia repair in the context of a randomised controlled trial of laparoscopic versus open hernia repair. Surgery was undertaken on a day case basis, and quality of life was assessed using the Short Form 36 (SF36). In the initial phase of the study, 57% of those screened for suitability met the study inclusion criteria and were randomised. No significant differences were found between laparoscopic and open hernia repair in terms of quality of life at 3 and 6 months postoperatively. No difference was found between 3 and 6 month scores, suggesting that patients had already made a good recovery by 3 months. A significant improvement was found between preoperative and postoperative scores, with the greatest change arising on dimensions assessing pain, physical function, and role limitation owing to physical restriction. After standardising for age, sex, and social class, a comparison of the hernia patients to population norms for the SF36 was consistent with improvement from preoperative to postoperative assessment. This study has demonstrated the improvement in quality of life in patients undergoing elective inguinal hernia repair by experienced surgeons on a day case basis. It has also demonstrated the feasibility of assessing quality of life using generic measures in this patient group. Further work in this area is required. Ultimately, the priority given to elective inguinal hernia repair will depend on how the demonstrated benefits compare with those derived from other elective surgical procedures.