Chronic arthritis may have great impact on the patient but also on his or her family, relatives and friends. The assessment of the consequences of chronic arthritis and the effect of therapy not only in terms of physical, but also psychological and social dimensions deserves more attention. Functional ability and health status can be measured using a questionnaire or `instrument¿, high-lighting important aspects not quantified with more traditional measurements. In this paper, arguments to apply such instruments more frequently are given. Health status instruments can be used not only to assess beneficial but also deleterious (side-)effects of therapeutic interventions. The properties are summarized of the most frequently used instruments assessing functional ability and health status. Many of these instruments have been evaluated sufficiently for validity and reliability; their sensitivity to detect change seems to be satisfactory. Therefore it is advisable to choose an internationally accepted, frequently used instrument, reflecting the area of interest.