Goals of effective management of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) include relieving their symptoms and improving their health status. We examined how such patient reported outcomes would change longitudinally in comparison to physiological outcomes in COPD. One hundred thirty-seven male outpatients with stable COPD were recruited for the study. The subjects health status was evaluated using the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) and the Chronic Respiratory Disease Questionnaire (CRQ). Their dyspnoea using the modified Medical Research Council (MRC) scale and their psychological status using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) were assessed upon entry and every 6 months thereafter over a 5-year period. Pulmonary function and exercise capacity as evaluated by peak oxygen uptake (VO2) on progressive cycle ergometry were also followed over the same time. Using mixed effects models to estimate the slopes for the changes, scores on the SGRQ, the CRQ, the MRC and the HADS worsened in a statistically significant manner over time. However, changes only weakly correlated with changes in forced expiratory volume in 1s (FEV(1)) and peak (VO2). We demonstrated that although changes in pulmonary function and exercise capacity are well known in patients with COPD, patient reported outcomes such as health status, dyspnoea and psychological status also deteriorated significantly over time. In addition, deteriorations in patient reported outcomes only weakly correlated to changes in physiological indices. To capture the overall deterioration of COPD from the subjective viewpoints of the patients, patient reported outcomes should be followed separately from physiological outcomes.