We assessed the five-year mortality in all United States Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 to 79 years who underwent inpatient cataract extraction in 1984. The risk of dying within five years after cataract extraction was compared to the five-year mortality risk of the same aged persons in the United States population. Patients with cataracts who were younger than 75 years had significantly higher age-specific rates of mortality than would be predicted from United States life tables (P less than .001). For example, at the age of 65 years, patients with cataracts had 1.34 times the risk of the United States population (95% confidence interval = 1.29 to 1.41). This risk progressively declined until the age of 75 years, at which age there is little difference between the patients with cataracts and the United States population, except for the oldest women with cataracts (at the age of 79 years, relative risk = .90; 95% confidence interval = .82 to .99). Although selection factors may account for the excess mortality observed among these individuals, these data do support previous analyses that suggest an association between senile cataract and increased risk of mortality.