Send to

Choose Destination
Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017 Aug;69(8):1560-1565. doi: 10.1002/art.40091. Epub 2017 Jul 10.

Brief Report: Rheumatoid Arthritis as the Underlying Cause of Death in Thirty-One Countries, 1987-2011: Trend Analysis of World Health Organization Mortality Database.

Author information

Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.
Lund University, Lund, Sweden, and Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.



To examine trends in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as an underlying cause of death (UCD) in 31 countries across the world from 1987 to 2011.


Data on mortality and population were collected from the World Health Organization mortality database and from the United Nations Population Prospects database. Age-standardized mortality rates (ASMRs) were calculated by means of direct standardization. We applied joinpoint regression analysis to identify trends. Between-country disparities were examined using between-country variance and the Gini coefficient. Due to low numbers of deaths, we smoothed the ASMRs using a 3-year moving average. Changes in the number of RA deaths between 1987 and 2011 were decomposed using 2 counterfactual scenarios.


The absolute number of deaths with RA registered as the UCD decreased from 9,281 (0.12% of all-cause deaths) in 1987 to 8,428 (0.09% of all-cause deaths) in 2011. The mean ASMR decreased from 7.1 million person-years in 1987-1989 to 3.7 million person-years in 2009-2011 (48.2% reduction). A reduction of ≥25% in the ASMR occurred in 21 countries, while a corresponding increase was observed in 3 countries. There was a persistent reduction in RA mortality, and on average, the ASMR declined by 3.0% per year. The absolute and relative between-country disparities decreased during the study period.


The rates of mortality attributable to RA have declined globally. However, we observed substantial between-country disparities in RA mortality, although these disparities decreased over time. Population aging combined with a decline in RA mortality may lead to an increase in the economic burden of disease that should be taken into consideration in policy-making.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center