The predictive value of cough, mucus hypersecretion, breathlessness, chronic bronchitis and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) for hospitalization and medication were examined in a random population sample of 876 men, 46-69 yrs of age. All of the men were examined in 1974 with interview and lung function tests. Information on hospitalization in the period 1977-1986 was obtained from the Danish National Patient Register, and information on drug usage was obtained from 567 men in a questionnaire survey ultimo 1985. FEV1 was a strong predictor of both hospitalization and medication. Respiratory symptoms were good predictors of hospitalization due to either respiratory disease in general (odds ratios 2.56-3.29), or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), (odds ratios 4.16-5.75). They contained predictive values in addition to that provided by FEV1. Respiratory symptoms were good predictors of medication for airway obstruction, relative risks 3.56-4.70, and/or airway disease in general, relative risks 2.67-4.69. After controlling for FEV1, cough was still significantly associated with treatment for airway disease in general and both cough, mucus hypersecretion and chronic bronchitis were significantly associated with treatment for airway obstruction. We conclude that apart from FEV1, respiratory symptoms are independent predictors of hospitalization and medication due to respiratory disease.