The short version of the World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL-BREF) questionnaire, a cross cultural instrument, is widely used in medical and public health fields, with versions developed in over 40 countries. Because research to evaluate the psychometric properties of the WHOQOL-BREF in diverse sample groups is scant, this study systematically reviewed the reliability and validity of such research. We searched studies, written in English, of psychometric properties examined in the WHOQOL-BREF in MEDLINE and PsycINFO (from 1998 to the May 2019). Fifty papers were finally included. The findings showed that the physical, psychological, and social relationships and the environmental domains of the WHOQOL-BREF had appropriate Cronbach's α and test–retest reliabilities. All these four domains showed good discriminant and criterion-related validity, representing a significant differentiation between the healthy and unhealthy groups, and exhibited significantly positive and negative correlations on questionnaires measuring health and syndrome of illness symptoms. However, the WHOQOL-BREF performed poorly in construct validity. The four-factor model proposed by the WHO was not fully validated in studies reviewed. An overview of these 50 papers indicates that inappropriate statistical analysis approaches may be a reason for poor construct validity. Based on the psychometric theory and its results from simulation studies, this study recommends conducting exploratory factor analysis using iterative principle axis factoring, promax rotation, and multiple methods to determine the number of factors as well as using confirmatory factor analysis with strict cut-off scores in goodness-of-fit indices and cautiously adopting a modification index for evaluating the psychometric properties of the WHOQOL-BREF.