An analysis of mortality related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Australia for the period 1950 to 1981 was undertaken based on information recorded in death certificates. These data include every death over a 32 year period where RA was considered to be the underlying cause. Death from RA was commonly reported (0.17% of all deaths). The mean age at death from RA in both sexes exceeded that of the general population for most of the period. There was little difference between patients dying of RA and the general population for age at death in the over 50 years' age group. There was a significant decrease in mortality for women dying of RA over the age of 75. RA accounted for more deaths in women than in men (in a ratio of 2.2:1). Men tended to die at a younger age from RA than did women. The impact of RA remained relatively constant in relation both to the total causes of death and to deaths due to other musculoskeletal diseases. There was a significant decline, however, in female RA deaths as a percentage of deaths due to all musculoskeletal diseases. Cohort analysis does not indicate any marked effect from extrinsic factors on mortality due to RA.
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