OBJECTIVES This article examines changes in the health status of Canadian adults between 1978/79 and 1996/97. DATA SOURCES Data are from the the Canadian Vital Statistics Data Base, the 1991 General Social Survey, the 1978/79 Canada Health Survey (CHS), and the 1996/97 National Population Health Survey (NPHS). ANALYTICAL TECHNIQUES Age-specific mortality rates are presented for 1978 and 1996. The cumulative incidence of heart disease is shown for 1991. Cross-sectional comparisons of prevalence rates for selected chronic conditions, activity limitation, disability days, smoking and overweight are shown for 1978/79 and 1996/97. Multiple logistic regression models were used to test differences in odds ratios for the chronic conditions and for activity limitation between the CHS and the NPHS. SUDAAN, which accounts for the complex survey design, was used to estimate standard errors of the prevalence and of the coefficients in the logistic model. MAIN RESULTS Lower mortality rates and lower prevalence of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and activity limitation suggest that recent cohorts are healthier than previous cohorts. When the age effect was controlled along with education and income, the odds of having these conditions were generally lower for each successive cohort, and lower in the mid-1990s than in the late 1970s. However, the odds of having diabetes were higher in 1996/97 than in 1978/79, and higher among more recent cohorts than among earlier cohorts.