Self-report questionnaire scales to assess various constructs of health status were compared in 602 patients with five rheumatic diseases, including 134 rheumatoid arthritis (RA), 216 osteoarthritis (OA), 84 fibromyalgia, 124 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and 43 scleroderma patients. RA patients showed significantly higher degrees of difficulty, dissatisfaction, and pain in performing eight activities of daily living (ADL) compared to patients with the other four diseases (P less than 0.01), while SLE patients reported the least difficulty, dissatisfaction and pain. Fibromyalgia patients showed significantly higher scores on a visual analog pain scale than patients with the other four diseases (P less than 0.05), followed by OA patients. Fibromyalgia patients reported significantly higher levels of learned helplessness, assessed according to a rheumatology attitudes index (RAI), than patients with all other diseases, and scleroderma patients showed significantly lower RAI scores (P less than 0.05). Patients with all five diseases who had not completed high school showed poorer clinical status than patients who had completed high school on all six scales. Significant differences in questionnaire scores were seen for 24 of 30 comparisons (five diseases and six scales) according to formal education level, versus only two according to age, and none according to duration of disease.