This study assessed the relative validity of the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form General Health Survey (SF-36 and SF-12) for Australian women and compared norms for the independently administered and embedded SF- 12. Two samples of women in New South Wales were randomly selected from the Medicare database ( N = 3600). The sample was stratified into young (18 to 22 years), middle-aged (45 to 49 years) and older (70 to 74 years) women, and into women living in urban (40 percent), rural (30 percent) and remote (30 percent) areas. In study 3500 households were selected by random digit dial. The method was a mailout survey. SF-36 scale scores were similar to US norms. For the older group, health profiles of the independent and embedded SF- 12 differed. For the SF-36 and independently administered SF- 12, means differed in all three age groups. The SF-12 physical health scores discriminated between women with poor versus good physical health, and mental health scores discriminated between groups who were or were not psychologically distressed on GHQ-12. The SF- 36, relative to the SF-12, appears to be a more reliable measure for examining changes in health status over time and between groups.