Background: To date, only few data are available on how family burden in schizophrenia changes over time. In addition, no study has explored how such factors as coping styles and social support influence burden over time. This paper presents the 1-year follow-up data from the BIOMED I study on family burden and coping strategies in schizophrenia. Methods: A sample of 159 relatives of patients with schizophrenia living in five European countries was followed up prospectively for 1 year with regard to burden and coping strategies, using validated questionnaires. Results: In the sample as a whole, the burden was stable. A reduction of family burden over time was found among relatives who adopted less emotion-focused coping strategies and received more practical support from their social network. In addition, family burden decreased in relation to the improvement of patient's social functioning. Conclusions: When relatives of patients with schizophrenia are able to improve their coping strategies, it is possible for burden to be reduced even after several years. This points to the necessity to provide families of chronic psychotic patients with psychoeducational interventions emphasising the adoption of an effective coping style.