Although various studies reported that pulse pressure, an indirect index of arterial stiffening, was an independent risk factor for mortality, a direct relationship between arterial stiffness and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality remained to be established in patients with essential hypertension. A cohort of 1980 essential hypertensive patients who attended the outpatient hypertension clinic of Broussais Hospital between 1980 and 1996 and who had a measurement of arterial stiffness was studied. At entry, aortic stiffness was assessed from the measurement of carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity (PWV). A logistic regression model was used to estimate the relative risk of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths. Selection of classic risk factors for adjustment of PWV was based on their influence on mortality in this cohort in univariate analysis. Mean age at entry was 50+/-13 years (mean+/-SD). During an average follow-up of 112+/-53 months, 107 fatal events occurred. Among them, 46 were of cardiovascular origin. PWV was significantly associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a univariate model of logistic regression analysis (odds ratio for 5 m/s PWV was 2.14 [95% confidence interval, 1.71 to 2.67, P<0.0001] and 2.35 [95% confidence interval, 1.76 to 3.14, P<0.0001], respectively). In multivariate models of logistic regression analysis, PWV was significantly associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, independent of previous cardiovascular diseases, age, and diabetes. By contrast, pulse pressure was not significantly and independently associated to mortality. This study provides the first direct evidence that aortic stiffness is an independent predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in patients with essential hypertension.