Background Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among long-term survivors of coronary artery bypass surgery is an important outcome that has been little studied at the population level.Methods A postal survey was conducted in 1999 to 2000 in patients 6 to 20 years after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery in Western-Australia. A random stratified sample of 2500 was drawn from 8910 patients who had their first CABG surgery in 1980 to 1993. Health-related quality of life was measured with Short Form 36 and EuroQol visual analogue scale.Results Response was 82% (n = 2061). Health-related quality of life declined with age and was similar for men and women, although scores for women were worse for physical functioning. Compared with Australian population norms, the age- and sex-standardized scores of survivors of CABG were generally worse, mainly in the physical domain. Reported angina at the time of follow-up (33%), symptoms of heart failure equivalent to New York Heart Association (NYHA) classes II to IV (34%), and comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension were associated with poorer HRQOL. For both men and women without angina or heart failure at follow-up, HRQOL was no different from that of the general population.Conclusion Overall, the quality of life among long-term survivors of CABG is worse than that of the general population, the difference being mainly attributable to recurrent symptoms and comorbidities. Quality of life for those without angina or heart failure at follow-up was equivalent to the population norms, providing an incentive to maximize efforts to abolish angina and ameliorate heart failure symptoms.