Health and functional status were studied in 470 men aged 70-89, the survivors of the Finnish cohorts of the Seven Countries Study. We aimed to compare subjective (self-reported activity of daily living [ADL]) and objective methods (four physical performance tests) in the assessment of physical function and to identify which factors are related to physical function. Poor ADL and decreased physical performance were mainly explained by the same health-related factors. The strongest determinants of ADL were depressive symptomatology odds ratio [OR] 4.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7-8.8), osteoarthritis (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.8-5.9), vertigo (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.2-5.5) and diabetes (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.2-4.6). Self-reported ADL and performance-based measures were in general strongly correlated with each other, although there was some discordance owing to the fact that these performance tests examine functional limitations, whereas the self-reported ADL reflects disability. The choice of which measurement to use in assessing functional status should be based on research objectives and the type of population under study.