OBJECTIVE To examine the association between serum HDL-cholesterol concentration (HDL-C) and self rated health (SRH) in several age groups of men and women. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING The study had a cross-sectional design and included 18,770 men and women of the Oslo Health Study aged 30; 40 and 45; 69-60; 75-76 years. RESULTS In both sexes and all age groups, SRH (3 categories: poor, good, very good) was positively correlated with HDL-C. Logistic regression analysis on dichotomized values of SRH (i.e. poor vs. good health) in each age group of men and women showed that increasing HDL-C values were associated with increasing odds for reporting good health; the odds ratio (OR) was highest in young men, and was generally lower in women than in men. Odds ratios in the 4 age groups of men were 4.94 (2.63-9.29), 2.25 (1.63-3.09), 2.12 (1.58-2.86), 1.87 (1.37-2.54); and in women: 3.58 (2.46-5.21), 2.81 (2.23-3.53), 2.28 (1.84-2.82), 1.61 (1.31-1.99). In the whole material, 1 mmol/L increase in HDL-C increased the odds for reporting good health by 2.27 (2.06-2.50; p<0.001), when adjusting for sex, age group, time since food intake and use of cholesterol lowering drugs. Chronic diseases, pain, psychological distress, smoking, alcohol, length of education, and dietary items did not have any major influence on the pattern of the HDL-C vs. SRH association. CONCLUSION There was a consistent positive association between HDL-C and SRH, in both men and women in four different age groups, with the strongest association in young people.