Background: Even if pain and psychological symptoms experienced by university students are common, the prognosis of these symptoms is unknown.
Objective: To examine the incidence and the outcome of frequent musculoskeletal and psychological symptoms in a 4-year follow-up of first-year university students.
Methods: In 2008, a national random sample (N=2750) of Finnish university students completed a questionnaire concerning pain and psychological symptoms. Of the 416 first-year students, 123 responded to the same questionnaire also in their fourth study year in 2012.
Results: Of the first-year university students with frequent pain or psychological symptoms, one half (47% - 65%) reported frequent symptoms also four years later. Almost all (78% – 95%) of the symptom-free first-year students were symptom-free also in their fourth study year.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that pain and psychological symptoms in university students are rather persistent during the first four study years. On the other hand, as half of those with frequent symptoms become symptomless and as the prognosis of symptom-free students is favourable, there is still need for further cohort studies on this issue.