Medical Outcomes Scale SF-36

Construct: Health Related Quality of Life

Description of Measure: The SF-36 is a 36-item scale constructed to survey health status and quality of life (Ware & Sherbourne, 1992). The SF-36 assesses eight health concepts: limitations in Quality of lifephysical activities because of health problems; limitations in social activities because of physical or emotional problems; limitations in usual role activities because of physical health problems); bodily pain; general mental health (psychological distress and well-being); limitations in usual role activities because of emotional problems; vitality (energy and fatigue); and general health perceptions. The standard form of the instruments asks for participants to reply to questions according to how they have felt over the previous week. The items use Likert-type scales, some with 5 or 6 points and others with 2 or 3 points. Sample items include “How much bodily pain have you had furing the past 4 weeks”, and “How much of the time during the past 4 weeks have you felt so down in the dumps nothing could cheer you up?” The SF-36 has been widely used and has excellent psychometrics. Further psychometric evaluation of the SF-36 (McHorney et al., 1993; Ware et al., 1994) has produced two summary scores: the Mental Health Component Score and the Physical Health Component Score.

Shorter versions of the scale have also been developed, including the SF-12 (Ware, Kosinski, & Keller, 1996). Even the shorter versions of the SF measure have been shown to be sensitive indicators of caregiver mental and physical health (Roth et al., 2009).

Detailed information about the psychometrics of the SF-36 can be found on the web.


McHorney, C.A., Ware, J.E. Raczek, A.E. (1993). The MOS 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36): II. Psychometric and clinical tests of validity in measuring physical and mental health constructs. Medical Care, 31, 247-263.

Roth, D. L., Perkins, M., Wadley, V. G., Temple, E., & Haley, W. E. (2009). Family caregiving and emotional strain: Associations with psychological health in a national sample of community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults. Quality of Life Research, 18, 679-688.

Ware, J.E., Kosinski, M., Keller, S.D. (1994). SF-36 Physical and Mental Health Summary Scales: A Users' Manual. Boston: The Health Institute.

Ware, J.E. & Sherbourne, C.D. (1992). The MOS 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36): I. Conceptual framework and item selection. Medical Care, 30, 473-83.

Ware, J. E., Kosinski, M., & Keller, S. D. (1996). A 12-item short-form health survey: Construction of scales and preliminary tests of reliability and validity. Medical Care, 34, 220–233.