In the general population, older age is associated with short leukocyte telomere length and with high risk of infections. In a recent study of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation for severe aplastic anemia, long donor leukocyte telomere length was associated with improved survival in the recipients. These findings suggest that leukocyte telomere length could possibly be a marker of immune competence. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that shorter leukocyte telomere length is associated with higher risk of infectious disease hospitalization and infection related death. Relative peripheral blood leukocyte telomere length was measured using quantitative polymerase chain reaction in 75,309 individuals from the general population and the individuals were followed for up to 23 years. During follow-up, 9,228 individuals were hospitalized with infections and infection related death occurred in 1508 individuals. Shorter telomere length was associated with higher risk of any infection (hazard ratio 1.05 per standard deviation shorter leukocyte telomere length; 95% confidence interval 1.03-1.07) and pneumonia (1.07;1.03-1.10) after adjustment for conventional infectious disease risk factors. Corresponding hazard ratios for infection related death were 1.10 (1.04-1.16) for any infection and 1.11 (1.04-1.19) for pneumonia. Telomere length was not associated with risk of skin infection, urinary tract infection, sepsis, diarrhoeal disease, endocarditis, meningitis or other infections. In conclusion, our findings indicate that leucocyte telomere length may be a marker of immune competence. Further studies are needed to determine whether risk of infections in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation recipients can be reduced by considering donor leukocyte telomere length when selecting donors.