The influence of sex, age at onset, course of the disease and initial symptomatology on the mortality of patients with multiple sclerosis is analysed. A sample of 1926 patients was followed up prospectively over 4.9 years. Both, the mortality ratio (number of observed to expected deaths) and the excess death rate are calculated. Whereas the mortality ratio as a parameter of overall mortality is influenced by a variety of factors, such as age and sex; the excess death rate represents the number of extra deaths per 1000 exposed to risk in an indicated year and is, therefore, a parameter of the mortality which is attributed to MS. The excess death rate was comparable for the sexes, it was slightly higher for patients with a higher age at onset and it was clearly higher for the progressive course. Patients with initial diplopia and sensory signs and symptoms had the lowest excess death rate, whereas patients with pareses, cerebral and sphincter disturbances at onset showed the highest excess death rate.