Aims: We aimed to investigate the prevalence and incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF) in a large European population-based study.
Methods and results: The study is part of the Rotterdam study, a population-based prospective cohort study among subjects aged 55 years and above. The prevalence at baseline was assessed in 6808 participants. Incidence of AF was investigated during a mean follow-up period of 6.9 years in 6432 persons. We identified 376 prevalent and 437 incident cases. Overall prevalence was 5.5%, rising from 0.7% in the age group 55-59 years to 17.8% in those aged 85 years and above. The overall incidence rate was 9.9/1000 person-years. The incidence rate in the age group 55-59 years was 1.1/1000 person-years, rose to 20.7/1000 person-years in the age group 80-84 years and stabilized in those aged 85 years and above. Prevalence and incidence were higher in men than in women. The lifetime risk to develop AF at the age of 55 years was 23.8% in men and 22.2% in women.
Conclusion: In this prospective study in a European population, the prevalence and incidence of AF increased with age and were higher in men than in women. The high lifetime risk to develop AF was similar to North American epidemiological data.