We report service users' views on three important domains of their quality of life in the community 12 years after resettlement for long-stay hospitals. These concerned their living environments, daily activities and future aspirations. We asked a series of open questions as part of a structured interview with service users with learning disabilities (n = 196) and mental health problems (n = 102). The study is the longest reported follow-up of deinstitutionalisation in the UK and one of the longest anywhere in the world. The most frequently self-reported positive aspects of users' quality of life were the living environment, the social milieu and independence. The most frequently mentioned problems occurred within the social milieu and included bullying, the social regime, the physical aspects of the accommodation, and the personal feelings of loneliness and boredom. The most preferred activities were outings, education and work, relaxation and leisure. The most disliked activities were household chores and having nothing to do. About half those interviewed did not or could not answer a question about their future; those who did mentioned a wish for greater independence, more outings and personal and sexual relationships. We remark on some implications for services and for staff training.