We employed a health status measure to describe the outcomes of rheumatoid arthritis patients over five years. Of the 410 rheumatoid arthritis patients who were originally administered the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales (AIMS), 299 completed a follow-up five years later. Data were analyzed using nine health status scales, three components of health status, and an overall arthritis impact item. Results for survivors indicated that there were no clinically important deteriorations in any of these measures. In fact, small improvements on most measures were found. The health status changes were similar for patients originally in a clinical trial and for those receiving routine specialty care. Age was found to positively relate to improvements in psychological status and overall arthritis impact, but we were unable to demonstrate any consistent effects of sex, marital status, education, or disease duration. Our results contrast with other studies that have noted major declines over time in the health status of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, level of education was not a major determinant of morbidity in this group. These results suggest that health status in certain patients with rheumatoid arthritis is more stable than previously thought. This has implications for both clinical practice and clinical research in rheumatology.