Brief Report: Lupus-An Unrecognized Leading Cause of Death in Young Females: A Population-Based Study Using Nationwide Death Certificates, 2000-2015

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2018 Aug;70(8):1251-1255. doi: 10.1002/art.40512. Epub 2018 Jun 27.


Objective: Mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are used for planning health care policy and allocating resources. The CDC uses these data to compile its annual ranking of leading causes of death based on a selected list of 113 causes. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is not included on this list. Since the ranking is a useful tool for assessing the relative burden of cause-specific mortality, this study was undertaken to rank SLE deaths among the CDC's leading causes of death to see whether SLE is a significant cause of death among females.

Methods: Death counts for the female population of the US were obtained from the CDC's Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database and then grouped by age and race/ethnicity. Data on the leading causes of death were obtained from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System database.

Results: During 2000-2015, there were 28,411 deaths of females with SLE recorded as an underlying or contributing cause of death. SLE ranked among the top 20 leading causes of death in females between 5 and 64 years of age. SLE ranked tenth among those ages 15-24 years, fourteenth among those ages 25-34 years and 35-44 years, and fifteenth among those ages 10-14 years. For African American and Hispanic females, SLE ranked fifth among those ages 15-24 years, sixth among those ages 25-34 years, and eighth or ninth among those ages 35-44 years, after the 3 common external injury causes of death were excluded from the analysis.

Conclusion: SLE is among the leading causes of death in young females, underscoring its impact as an important public health issue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Death Certificates
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / ethnology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / mortality*
  • Middle Aged
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult