The SF-36 Health Survey is a generic instrument for assessment of the health-related quality of life of patients. Originally developed in the U.S. and used in the Medical Outcomes Study, the SF-36 is the empirically validated short form of outcome assessment instruments developed for this study. The SF-36 assesses 8 subscales of the health-related quality of life, or subjective health, which are conceptually subsumed in the areas of "physical" and "mental" health. On the basis of a translation of the instrument into the German language, the results of psychometric testing of the SF-36 in different populations of healthy and ill persons are described. In addition, the results of a norming study and the use of these data as age- and gender-specific reference information for clinical populations are demonstrated. In its German form as well, the SF-36 appears to be a psychometrically robust and practicable instrument for use in outcome evaluation in rehabilitative medicine.