The differences in quality of life and school absence were studied in one hundred adolescents from the open population who had reported chronic headache or chronic, physically unexplained, pain at other locations. The adolescents kept a 3-week diary about their pain and completed a quality of life questionnaire. Of all chronic pain sufferers in this study, it was the adolescents with headache who showed the least frequent pain, but they reported the poorest quality of life and the largest school absence due to their pain. Adolescents with headache or adolescents with back pain showed the highest negative correlations between pain parameters and quality of life. Headache sufferers showed highly negative relationships between pain parameters and most quality of life domains (median r = -0.46), and only in headache sufferers did this involve both intensity and frequency of pain. Qualitative studies are needed to reveal the background to these differences.