Health status (Quality of Life) questionnaires for use in asthma are generally too long or complex for routine use. A new short and simple measure of health status in asthma has been developed for this purpose. There are two versions, one containing 30 items (AQ30) and the other 20 items (AQ20). This study examined their cross-sectional and longitudinal properties and compared them with those of two established measures--the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) and the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ). Ninety asthmatic patients (mean age 46 years) participated. Mean post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) was 73 +/- 25 (SD)% predicted at baseline. Questionnaire data were collected twice, 12 weeks apart. Diary records of peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) and daily asthma were kept for 14 days. The new questionnaires each took 3 min or less to complete. At baseline they correlated well with the SGRQ and AQLQ and showed the same pattern of correlations with clinical measures of asthma. Change scores for the new questionnaires correlated with those for the established measures. There was no advantage of the AQ30 over the AQ20. The AQ20 provides a simple method for obtaining valid health status estimates of asthmatics in routine clinical practice and has properties similar to more complex research instruments.