The use of (costly) growth hormone (GH) treatment in short children is often justified by the assumption that short stature considerably reduces quality of life in adults. We tested this assumption in 5 groups of short adults: 25 patients with isolated GH deficiency; 17 male patients with childhood onset renal failure; 25 women with Turner syndrome and 26 patients who were presented as a child to a paediatrician for idiopathic short stature. A group of 44 short individuals with presumably idiopathic short stature, who had not been presented to a paediatrician for short stature, was sampled from the general population (‘normal shorts’). We measured quality of life in terms of socio-economic variables, the Nottingham Health Profile and time trade-off. The mean height of most groups was close to the 3rd percentile. The chance of having a partner was low for all groups, except for the normal shorts. Problems with job application were only reported in Turner syndrome. The scores on the Nottingham Health Profile were all within the normal range, but GH-deficient adults had a higher score on the domain energy than normal shorts. Women with Turner syndrome, individuals with renal failure, and those with idiopathic short stature had a wish to be taller, with an estimated reduction in quality of life of 2–4% (time trade-off). As the normal shorts did not show any sign of a reduced quality of life, we falsify the assumption of a direct relation between short stature and quality of life. The complaints of patients with idiopathic short stature around the 3rd percentile seem to be the result of unsuccessful coping strategies.