This study investigated the characteristics and validity of the SF-36 (Australian version) health profile and summary scores for recently discharged hospital patients and compared this with US and Australian community samples with minor and serious medical conditions. Adult medical, surgical, obstetric and gynaecological patients from a large teaching hospital in NSW, Australia, completed a postal survey 1 week after discharge. The SF- 36 discriminated well among patient groups and performed well on most validity tests. Scale and summary scores varied by age, gender, seriousness of condition on admission, prior health status and hospital group. The findings highlight the potential of the SF-36 in monitoring the health status of Australian hospital patients and assessing the health-related support needed on discharge.