In 1991, the National Task Force on Health Information recommended that in order to assess the health of Canadians, the health information system should include an aggregate index of population health. This article presents such an index--Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE)--as one possibility in a range of indicators. In contrast to conventional life expectancy, which considers all years as equal, to calculate HALE, years of life are weighted by health status. To measure health status, the Health Utility Index, obtained from 1994-95 National Population Health Survey data, was used. Traditional life expectancy and HALE figures are compared to estimate the burden of ill health. The societal burden of ill health is higher for women than for men, and is highest among those in "early" old age, not among the most elderly. The data further indicate that sensory problems and pain comprise the largest components of the burden of ill health, and that higher socioeconomic status confers a dual advantage--longer life expectancy and a lower burden of ill health.