Considering the key position of patients' global assessment in clinical practice and research, we wanted to examine the relationships between patients' global assessment and biological, functional, and mental variables, and to explore the relative contribution of these variables on patients' assessment of arthritis impact. Patients with RA of < or = 4 yrs duration were examined at baseline (n = 238) and after 12 and 24 months (n = 216). Study variables were tender joints, ESR, CRP, hand X-ray abnormalities and self-reported global arthritis impact, pain, disability, and symptoms of depression. 2-yr mean scores were computed for all variables. Strong correlations were found between patients' global assessment and pain (r = .73), depression (r = .68), disability (r = .64), and tender joints (r = .51), while ESR, CRP, and X-ray abnormalities correlated weakly with the global assessment. Using a multivariate approach, however, the relative effects of disability and tender joints were no longer statistically significant, whereas pain and depression still had significant impact on patients' global assessments.