OBJECTIVE: As ageing is associated with changes in body composition, BMI may not be the appropriate obesity measure for older adults. To date, little is known about associations between obesity measures and health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Thus, we aimed to compare different obesity measures in their association with HRQoL and self-rated physical constitution (SRPC) in older adults. DESIGN: Seven obesity measures (BMI, waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio, fat mass percentage based on bioelectrical impedance analysis, hypertriglyceridaemic waist (HTGW) and sarcopenic obesity) were assessed at baseline in 2009. HRQoL, using the EQ-5D questionnaire, and SRPC, using one single question, were collected at baseline and at the 3-year follow-up in 2012. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to examine the associations between the obesity measures and both outcomes. Model comparisons were conducted by area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve, R 2, Akaike and Schwarz Bayesian information criteria. SETTING: KORA-Age study in Southern Germany (2009-2012). SUBJECTS: Older adults (n 883; aged >65 years). RESULTS: Nearly all obesity measures were significantly inversely associated with both outcomes in cross-sectional analyses. Concerning HRQoL, the WC model explained most of the variance and had the best model adaption, followed by the BMI model. Regarding SRPC, the HTGW and BMI models were best as rated by model quality criteria, followed closely by the WC model. Longitudinal analyses showed no significant associations. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that, with regard to HRQoL/SRPC, simple anthropometric measures are sufficient to determine obesity in older adults in medical practice.