A general population of 928 men and women aged 30, 40, 50 and 60 years participated in a health survey with emphasis on low back trouble (LBT). In all 135 variables were analysed to identify possible indicators for first-time experience and recurrence or persistence of LBT during a one-year follow-up. Stepwise logistic regression analyses were carried out to identify the most informative combinations of indicators for prediction of LBT. For men, a high risk for recurrence or persistence of LBT was associated with frequent LBT in the past, worsening of the LBT since its onset, sciatica and living alone. For women corresponding risk indicators were: recency of the last LBT episode, waking up during night because of LBT, aggravation of LBT when standing, rumbling of "the stomach" and smoking. The strongest risk indicators for first-time experience of LBT were epigastric pain, daily smoking and low isometric endurance of the back muscles. In addition, hospitalisations for whatever cause and a long distance from home to work showed predictive power for first-time LBT among gainfully employed participants. The results indicate that persons with either recurring or first-time LBT had more health problems and probably lived under a higher psycho-social pressure than those without LBT in the follow-up year.