Declining incidence of sudden cardiac death from 1990-2010 in a general middle-aged and elderly population: The Rotterdam Study

Heart Rhythm. 2015 Jan;12(1):123-9. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2014.09.054. Epub 2014 Sep 30.


Background: Although sudden cardiac death (SCD) is relatively common, contemporary data on its incidence are lacking.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the current incidence of SCD and its trend over the past 2 decades in a general middle-aged and elderly population.

Methods: This study was performed within the Rotterdam Study, a prospective population-based cohort study of persons aged 45 years and older. Age-standardized incidence rates of SCD were calculated. To study trends in incidence, we compared 2 subcohorts within the total study population, 1 followed from 1990-2000 and the other from 2001-2010.

Results: From 1990-2010, 5512 of 14,628 participants died, of whom 583 (4.0%) were classified as SCD. The overall incidence was 4.2 per 1000 person-years. The incidence was higher in men (5.2 per 1000 person-years) than in women (3.6 per 1000 person-years). Age-adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 1.84 (95% confidence [CI] 1.56-2.17) and risk of SCD increased with age (HR 1.10 per year; 95% CI 1.09-1.11). The incidence rate from 1990-2000 was 4.7 per 1000 person-years vs 2.1 per 1000 person-years from 2001-2010 (age- and sex-adjusted HR of SCD 0.60, 95% CI 0.44-0.80). To check for cohort effects, we also analyzed the incidence of total mortality and found an age- and sex-adjusted HR of total mortality of 0.82 (95% CI 0.75-0.90) for the second compared to the first subcohort, which was significantly higher than the decline in SCD incidence.

Conclusion: We found an incidence of SCD of 4.2 per 1000 person-years. The incidence decreased from 1990-2010, a period during which the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease greatly improved.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Epidemiology; Incidence; Mortality; Population-based study; Sudden cardiac death; Time trends.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors