The MOS 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) is designed to measure 8 dimensions of health in clinical and general population settings. The main aim of this paper was to examine the reliability and validity of this instrument in young adults. A secondary aim was to document the results of a rapid translation procedure of the instrument, to be compared later to the more thorough official French adaptation. The translated survey was answered in 1992 by 1007 residents of Geneva, Switzerland, 18-44 years old, identified from health insurance rolls (82% response rate). Completion rate for all 8 dimensions of health was 95.5%. The instrument demonstrated excellent covergent (100%) and discriminant (98%) validity against pre-set criteria. Interval scaling of responses could be verified in some, but not all, items. Cronbach alpha (reliability) coefficients ranged from 0.76 to 0.92. Factorial analysis yielded 2 principal components, corresponding to mental and physical health. Thirteen of 16 correlations between health dimensions and principal components were within a pre-established range. Validation by independent clinical variables was also, with few exceptions, consistent with theory. Thus the SF-36 retained excellent psychometric properties even when used in a generally very healthy group. The careful but rapid translation procedure used in this study may be an effective alternative to full-scale cultural adaptations when resources are limited.