Eighty-one patients with chronic shoulder impingement resistant to conservative treatment completed a generic quality-of-life questionnaire (SF-36) and shoulder-specific questionnaire (Simple Shoulder Test [SST]). SF-36 data were compared with those of an Australian normative data set. Patients with chronic shoulder impingement were found to be significantly lower in all health dimensions of the SF-36 than the normal population. Results from the SST test indicated that patients were functionally very limited, particularly in being unable to work full time at their usual job and being unable to lift a weight above the head. Our results indicate that chronic shoulder impingement results in significant functional disability and a reduction in quality of life. Baseline descriptive data of this nature are important, because they provide a point of comparison for the effect of different conditions and for determining the effect of surgical treatment.