The objective of this study was to examine the quality of life of female Canadian surgeons. It was designed as a population survey of practicing Canadian female surgeons. Participants were all female members in good standing of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or La Corporation Professionnelle des Medecins du Quebec (or both) practicing in Canada as of March 1990. The response rate was 91.3% (n = 419). The main outcome measures were satisfaction with family life, leisure, location, friendships, health, work, finances, marriage, and general happiness. Quality of life questions were adapted from the interviewer form of the U.S. General Social Survey. Most respondents report moderate to high satisfaction across domains, with only the following proportions reporting no satisfaction at all: 15% (family life), 3% (leisure), 5% (friendships), 4% (marriage), and 7% (work). Age, type of surgical specialty, and average number of hours worked are not associated with these satisfaction ratings. Most married female surgeons are in a first marriage (93%), have biologic children (56%), and have a full-time practice (82%). The number of children is positively related to satisfaction with family life (p = 0.0001) but negatively related to satisfaction with leisure p = 0.004) and friendships (p = 0.037). Forty percent report that family responsibilities compromise their careers 'quite a bit' and this is negatively related to work satisfaction (p = 0.01) but positively related to satisfaction with family life p = 0.02), leisure (p = 0.03), location (p = 0.03), friendships (p = 0.004), and health (p = 0.02). Only 9% of our population believe that their spouse/partner expects his career advancement to take priority over hers, but this group is most at risk for diminished quality of life. In spite of the challenges of demanding careers, Canadian female surgeons report a high degree of satisfaction with their lives and rate themselves as happy overall.