Good survival rates in systemic lupus erythematosus in southern Sweden, while the mortality rate remains increased compared with the population

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


OBJECTIVE: To ascertain the mortality rate and causes of death in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) within a defined region in southern Sweden during the time period 1981-2014 and determine whether these have changed over time. METHODS: In 1981, a prospective observation study of patients with SLE was initiated in southern Sweden. All incident SLE patients within a defined geographic area were identified using previously validated methods including diagnosis and immunology registers. Patients with a confirmed SLE diagnosis were then followed prospectively at the Department of Rheumatology in Lund. Clinical data was collected at regular visits. Patients were recruited from 1981 to 2006 and followed until 2014. The patient cohort was split into two groups based on the year of diagnosis to determine secular trends. Causes of death were retrieved from medical records and from the cause of death registry at The National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden. RESULTS: In all, 175 patients were diagnosed with SLE during the study period. A total of 60 deaths occurred during a total of 3053 years of follow-up. In the first half of the study inclusion period 46 patients died, compared with 14 in the latter. The majority of patients (51.7%) died of cardiovascular disease. Infections caused 15% of the deaths and malignancy was the cause of death in 13.3% of patients. SLE was the main cause of death for 6.7% of the patients and a contributing factor for half of the patients. Standardized mortality ratio was increased in patients by a factor of 2.5 compared with the general population. Deaths occurred at an even rate throughout the whole observation period. No significant difference in standardized mortality ratio was observed between genders but was increased in older female patients. Furthermore, secular mortality trends were not identified. CONCLUSIONS: In this long-term epidemiologic follow-up study of incident SLE, we report a substantially raised mortality rate amongst SLE patients compared with the general population. The mortality rates have not changed significantly during the observation period that spanned three decades. The main cause of death was cardiovascular disease and this finding was consistent over time.


External organisations
  • National University Hospital of Iceland
  • University of Gothenburg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems


  • cardiovascular disease, cause of death, mortality, standardized mortality ratio, Systemic lupus erythematosus
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1488-1494
Number of pages7
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch