A technique for assessing the overall consequences of disease is introduced, comprising a Swedish version of a behaviour-based measure, the Sickness Impact Profile (SIP). Measurement characteristics of the profile are defined in an epidemiological study of 147 women with rheumatic disorders. The drop-out rate was 7.5%. Cross-cultural evidence of the validity of the SIP was obtained in this study. Test-retest reliability was substantial. A high level of validity of the Swedish version was demonstrated, as assessed by hypothesized significant relationships with selected functional, psychological, and social correlates. The profile was able to describe the various sickness impacts in a specific and sensitive manner. In the epidemiological setting, the subscales representing Ambulation, Body care and movement, Emotional behaviour, Social interaction, Sleep and rest, Home management and Recreation and pastimes, all showed discriminatory capacity. The categories Mobility, Alertness behaviour, Communication, Work, and Eating discriminated less well. The response pattern was recognizably related to rheumatic complaints, emphasizing a broader applicability of this scale in rheumatology.