941 cases of definite/probable multiple sclerosis living in Los Angeles County, California and King and Pierce Counties, Washington in 1970 who had onset between 1960 and 1969 were followed for mortality and disability through 1980. Early age of onset and residence in Washington State were predictors of less rapid and severe subsequent course. Coordination symptoms at onset were prognostic of rapid progression to disability and/or early death, whereas early motor weakness was significantly predictive only for disability. The presence of sensory symptoms in addition to motor and/or coordination symptoms at onset, however, indicated a better prognosis than coordination and/or motor symptoms alone. This observation and the results of regression analyses indicated that specific groupings of symptoms at onset were more important for predicting course than the number of symptoms present at onset.