Background: Self-rated health (SRH) is a robust predictor of mortality. In UK, migrants of South Asian descent, compared to native Caucasian populations, have substantially poorer SRH. Despite its validation among migrant South Asian populations and its popularity in developed countries as a useful public health tool, the SRH scale has not been used at a population level in countries in South Asia. We determined the prevalence of and risk factors for poor/fair SRH among individuals aged ≥15 years in Pakistan (n = 9442). Methods: The National Health Survey of Pakistan was a cross-sectional population-based survey, conducted between 1990 and 1994, of 18 135 individuals aged 6 months and above; 9442 of them were aged ≥15 years. Our main outcome was SRH which was assessed using the question: "Would you say your health in general is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?" SRH was dichotomized into poor/fair, and good (excellent, very good, or good). Results: Overall 65.1% respondents - 51.3 % men vs. 77.2 % women - rated their health as poor/fair. We found a significant interaction between sex and age (p < 0.0001). The interaction was due to the gender differences only in the ages 15-19 years, whereas poor/fair SRH at all older ages was more prevalent among women and increased at the same rate as it did among men. We also found province of dwelling, low or middle SES, literacy, rural dwelling and current tobacco use to be independently associated with poor/fair SRH. Conclusion: This is the first study reporting on poor/fair SRH at a population-level in a South Asian country. The prevalence of poor/fair health in Pakistan, especially amongst women, is one of the worst ever reported, warranting immediate attention. Further research is needed to explain why women in Pakistan have, at all ages, poorer SRH than men.