PURPOSE: The objectives of the study were to investigate the gender-related development of life satisfaction in young physicians over an 8-year period of residency, to compare it with a representative sample, and to analyze the relationships between both person- and health-related factors and life satisfaction. METHODS: A prospective study was carried out including five measurement points among a cohort of 337 Swiss physicians. Measurements include domain-specific life satisfaction (FLZ(M)), sense of coherence (SOC-13), anxiety and depression (HADS-D), chronic stress (TICS) and socio-demographic variables. Data were analyzed with multivariate procedures. RESULTS: Life satisfaction in physicians of both genders is lower compared to a representative sample. Over the 8-year period of residency, the course of life satisfaction seems to be rather unstable and domain-specific. Female physicians are more satisfied with life than their male counterparts. Depressive symptoms and stress experience are highly negatively associated with life satisfaction in multivariate analysis. CONCLUSIONS: To study the development of life satisfaction over time, it is more appropriate to use a domain-specific life satisfaction questionnaire than a total score. Furthermore, it is a matter of concern that-compared to a representative sample-physicians in residency show lower life satisfaction at all measurement points. Depressive symptoms and chronic stress are found to diminish life satisfaction. This could keep some physicians from staying in the medical profession. Senior physicians should be aware of the negative impact of chronic stress on life satisfaction.