As Australia is one of the most multicultural societies in the world, acculturation of migrants and changes in migrants' health status should be an important focus of public health research. The absence of an accepted measure of acculturation is one barrier to exploring the relationship between acculturation and health. This paper presents data from a study of 851 Arabic-speaking adults attending 20 Arabic-speaking general practitioners in Canterbury, Sydney. An eight-item scale assessing acculturation was developed with a structural equation modelling program (LISREL). This acculturation scale was based on similar scales used with Hispanic populations, was theoretically grounded and had high internal consistency and criterion-related validity. To show the application of a scale of acculturation, patients' preferences for participation in medical decision making, according to level of acculturation, were examined. After adjustment for age, sex and highest level of formal education, significant inverse associations between acculturation and preferences for patient (versus family) involvement in medical decision making were found. Mechanisms for how acculturation affects health need to be explored.