Fatigue is one of the most prevalent symptoms in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In research as well as in clinical practise, fatigue and its influence on functioning and health has not been in focus. The aim of this study was to compare fatigue, functional limitations owing to fatigue and health between patients with COPD and individuals from the general population to assess the differences between patients experiencing no, moderate and severe fatigue. Patients with COPD (n = 151) and individuals from the general population (n = 95) answered questions about fatigue, the Fatigue Impact Scale and the Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form-36. The patients with COPD reported a higher frequency, longer daily duration and more severity of fatigue compared with individuals from the general population as well as more functional limitations and worse health. The patients who reported severe fatigue had more functional limitations and worse health compared with patients reporting moderate fatigue. These results indicate that fatigue severity should be screened for during the nursing care process with purpose to reduce the symptom burden.