Causes of death were examined for 1,103 systemic lupus erythematosus patients who were followed from 1965 to 1978 at 9 centers that participated in the Lupus Survival Study Group. A total of 222 patients (20%) died. Lupus-related organ system involvement (mainly active nephritis) and infection were the most frequent primary causes of death. Causes of death were similar throughout the followup period. Hemodialysis had little impact on the length of survival for patients with nephritis. Active central nervous system disease and myocardial infarction were infrequent causes of death. There were no deaths from malignancy.