BACKGROUND: Health-related quality of life (HRQL) is an important patient-reported outcome measure used to describe the burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is often accompanied by comorbid conditions. METHODS: Data from 2275 participants in the COPD cohort COSYCONET and from 4505 lung-healthy control subjects from the population-based KORA and SHIP studies were pooled. Main outcomes were the five dimensions of the generic EQ-5D-3 L questionnaire and two EQ-5D index scores using a tariff based on valuations from the general population and an experience-based tariff. The association of COPD in GOLD grades 1-4 and of several comorbid conditions with the EQ-5D index scores was quantified by multiple linear regression models while adjusting for age, sex, education, body mass index (BMI), and smoking status. RESULTS: For all dimensions of the EQ-5D, the proportion of participants reporting problems was higher in the COPD group than in control subjects. COPD was associated with significant reductions in the EQ-5D index scores (-0.05 points for COPD grades 1/2, -0.09 for COPD grade 3, -0.18 for COPD grade 4 according to the preference-based utility tariff, all p < 0.0001). Adjusted mean index scores were 0.89 in control subjects and 0.85, 0.84, 0.81, and 0.72 in COPD grades 1-4 according to the preference-based utility tariff and 0.76, 0.71, 0.68, 0.64, and 0.58 for control subjects and COPD grades 1-4 for the experience-based tariff respectively. Comorbidities had additive negative effects on the index scores; the effect sizes for comorbidities were comparable to or smaller than the effects of COPD grade 3. No statistically significant interactions between COPD and comorbidities were observed. Score differences between COPD patients and control subjects were most pronounced in younger age groups. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with control subjects, the considerable reduction of HRQL in patients with COPD was mainly due to respiratory limitations, but observed comorbidities added linearly to this effect. Younger COPD patients showed a greater loss of HRQL and may therefore be in specific need of comprehensive disease management. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT01245933.