This study aimed to describe the mortality pattern of Norwegian patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The subjects were 149 patients (52 males(M)) who were discharged from a Norwegian rheumatology hospital in 1977 after their first admission for RA. 126 patients (85%) met the 1958 criteria for definite or classical RA. By the end of 1992, 2 patients, both with definite/classical RA, were lost to follow-up. Of the remaining 147 patients (51M), 68 (25M) had died. The overall standardised mortality ratio (SMR) was 149 (95% CI: 115-188). The mortality was significantly raised for females with SMR= 168 (120-223). The moderate increase in the male SMR of 126 (81-181) was restricted to the early years of follow up. Patients with definite/classical RA had a somewhat higher SMR (159 (120-202)). Excess deaths were due to malignant disease in males and cardiovascular disease in females. RA was mentioned on one third of the death certificates. This study supports previous findings that patients with RA have a reduced long term survival, most prominent in females.