To investigate if, and when, patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in recent years are at increased risk of death.Methods
Using an extensive register linkage, we designed a population-based nationwide cohort study in Sweden. Patients with new-onset RA from the Swedish Rheumatology Quality Register, and individually matched comparators from the general population were followed with respect to death, as captured by the total population register.Results
17 512 patients with new-onset RA between 1 January 1997 and 31 December 2014, and 78 847 matched general population comparator subjects were followed from RA diagnosis until death, emigration or 31 December 2015. There was a steady decrease in absolute mortality rates over calendar time, both in the RA cohort and in the general population. Although the relative risk of death in the RA cohort was not increased (HR=1.01, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.06), an excess mortality in the RA cohort was present 5 years after RA diagnosis (HR after 10 years since RA diagnosis=1.43 (95% CI 1.28 to 1.59)), across all calendar periods of RA diagnosis. Taking RA disease duration into account, there was no clear trend towards lower excess mortality for patients diagnosed more recently.Conclusions
Despite decreasing mortality rates, RA continues to be linked to an increased risk of death. Thus, despite advancements in RA management during recent years, increased efforts to prevent disease progression and comorbidity, from disease onset, are needed.