The objective of this study was to assess the validity of a Kiswahili translation of the SF-36 Health Survey (SF-36) among an urban population in Tanzania, using the method of known-groups validation. People were randomly selected from a demographic surveillance system in Dar es Salaam. The representative sample consisted of 3,802 adults (15 years and older). Health status differences were hypothesized among groups, who differed in sex, age, socioeconomic status and self-reported morbidity. Mean SF-36 scale scores were calculated and compared using t-test and ANOVA. Women had significantly lower mean SF-36 scale scores (indicating worse health status) than men on all scales and scores were lower for older people than younger on all domains, as hypothesized. On five of the eight SF-36 scales, means were higher for people of higher socioeconomic status compared to those of lower socioeconomic status. People who reported an illness within the previous 2 weeks scored significantly lower on all scales compared to those who were healthy, as did people who said they had a disability or a chronic condition.