Background: The degree to which rheumatoid arthritis (RA) influences life expectancy and mortality remains controversial. There have been few attempts to analyse death certificate data for this condition. Despite limitations, the information derived from detailed death certificate analysis for a large population over a long period allows the examination of aspects of the disease process and its impact.
Methods: The mortality related to RA in France was investigated for 1970-1990 inclusive. A multiple cause of death analysis was conducted, based on information recorded in death certificates.
Results: Death from RA represented 0.22% of all deaths. Mortality due to RA was strongly influenced by sex (female/male ratio of number of deaths = 3.3) and age (proportional mortality ratios higher in the 65-74 and 75-84 year age groups). In women, the mean age at death for RA was slightly lower than the mean age at death from all causes, while the difference was clearly opposite in men. The impact of RA remained relatively constant during the study period, both in terms of proportional mortality and age at death. The analysis of associated causes of death did not yield significant changes in the pattern of death from RA.
Conclusions: The study demonstrates the significant and relatively constant impact of RA on mortality in France over the study period. This suggests that the introduction of new treatment regimens or other environmental factors has had little influence on the impact of RA mortality in the community.