Lupus Patients in US, Especially Women, Die at Younger Ages, Study Reports

Lupus Patients in US, Especially Women, Die at Younger Ages, Study Reports

Women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in the U.S. live on average 22 years less — and men an average of 12 fewer years — than members of the same sex among the public at large, according to new data from Stanford University.

Leading causes of death for female SLE patients were septicemia (blood infections or blood poisoning) and hypertension, while male patients more often died of complications of heart disease and diabetes.

The study, “Impact of Sex on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus-Related Causes of Premature Mortality in the United States,” was published in the Journal of Women’s Health.

Lupus is an auto-immune disease associated with lesser life expectancy, but little is known about the causes of death associated with the disease, specially through a sex-based lens.

“This study examines the sex-based differences in the causes of death among women and men with SLE in the U.S. and identifies clinically relevant comorbidities, such as infectious diseases, that are more likely to contribute to premature death in this population,” Susan G. Kornstein, MD, editor-in-chief of Journal of Women’s Health, and executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, said in a press release.

Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine investigated these causes among lupus patients using the 2014 national death certificate database, which includes 2.7 million death records in the U.S.

Among the 2,036 lupus patients in the database, 86.2 percent were women. While the median age at death for women in the general population was 81 years, it was 59 for those with lupus, a median difference of 22 years.

In men that difference was lesser. Male patients with lupus lived a median of 61 years, and those in the public at large to age 73, a median 12-year difference.

While septicemia and hypertension were the leading causes of death in women with SLE in general, those age 50 or younger were most likely to die of  chronic renal failure and coagulation and hemorrhagic disorders. Among U.S. women without SLE, leading causes of death were dementias and acute cerebrovascular disease.

Among men in the general population, main causes of death were injury or poisoning,  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dementias, and heart disease and diabetes in those with SLE. Among male SLE patients age 50 or younger, blood disorders (coagulation and hemorrhagic disorders) and chronic renal failure were top causes of earlier death.

Overall, “our findings reinforce the urgent need for interventions that reduce morbidity and mortality in patients with SLE to improve health outcomes and ultimately reduce health disparities,” the researchers wrote.

“These results identified clinically relevant comorbidities that need to be considered more carefully in the course of patients’ clinical management and the natural history of SLE disease, elucidating future targets for the investigation of sex based differences,” they added.

Patricia holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She has also served as a PhD student research assistant at the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.
Patricia holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She has also served as a PhD student research assistant at the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.
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  1. Lori A Pope says:

    How were these patients managing their lupus? With drugs? How do you know the deaths aren’t caused by the toxic drugs?

    I manage my SLE completely with nutrition and am flare free. I gotta believe that these stats are for patients who were managed with drugs, or died at the onset/early diagnosis stage.

    • joanne campbell says:

      Nice to be able to do that ,I wish I could manage my lupus drug free, My light allergy is such that I am allergic to all light without drugs , also without blood thinners I would be dead from constant blood clots , I can manage the flares with nutrition without the other complications but most Lupus sufferers arnt as lucky to Just have the odd flare ,without the drugs I was 3 years in bed in a dark room!! So not a helpful comment .

  2. Lori A Pope says:

    okay, so I was right. The study says “These clinical manifestations may also
    be induced by SLE-related drug therapies, for example, antimalarial
    and immunosuppressive drugs.” and “we cannot differentiate between causes of
    death that are related to the natural age process, disease activity,
    and drug therapy”

    Wake up people and start managing your disease with a good nutritionist/ naturopath!

  3. Katie Fitzgerald says:

    I plan on living well past 59. Wake up everyone. Get off the prescription pills and start doing some really hard work. Go vegan, meditate, pray, do yoga, go for walks. Get enough rest. Go to therapy, get rid of your stress. Put yourself first. I spent two years on high doses of steroids, benlysta, imuran, painkillers…..never felt sicker. Now just on plaquenil and in a mission to come off it when my new lifestyle is totally in control of lupus.

    • Stephany says:

      So i used to be vegetarian until i got really sick…. I don’t think this is good for every one because our bodies don’t absorb nutrients too well…can you give me some more guidance on making a switch without getting sick from it

    • Laura Morrison says:

      LOL meditate, do yoga, go vegan……Tell that to someone who is dying…..someone who has never taken any “prescription pills” in their life. Don’t be so ridiculous!

  4. Lori A Pope says:

    After two major hospitalizations,constant steroid use and the start of chemotherapy (which scared the hell out of me), I healed myself by following Ann Boroch’s anti-candida protocol. It’s documented in her books. Work hard to educate yourself – I find they are all saying the same “basic” thing. No Gluten, Dairy, Sugar, Corn, Soy. Ann Boroch is stricter than that as she limits fruit, no honey or other sweeteners, use of anti fungals and probiotics because the healing is based on eliminating yeast overgrowth and building the right ecology in our gut. Having lived through this, I firmly believe our body has an innate sense to heal itself when given the environment and mindset to do so. It’s a journey of the mind, body and spirit. For some people they see huge changes in just 2 weeks. For me, I saw incremental improvements each month. It was a long journey of 9 months to get my brain and energy back, but it WORKED. I’ve been drug free and flare free for over two years now. I highly recommend you reading Ann’s books AND find a good nutritionist/naturopath local to you. Also, if you haven’t already, watch the Betrayal documentary series. It’s another great education. It’s not an easy journey to undo years of corrupting our body, but it is so worth it when you come up on the other side!

  5. Dr. Tracy Kritz says:

    I’m a physician and I have lupus. I have just read the above remarks about finding a good nutritionist and going vegan and anti-candida and it makes me wanna pull my hair out. I’ve always practiced evidence-based medicine and now that I am sick with lupus I’m trying to practice and evidence-based life. Telling someone who is critically ill to essentially, buck up, get off the meds, pray go vegan, and so on it’s a punch in the face. It’s a kin to telling someone with cancer to stop proven treatment and just pray. It’s telling someone who sick that it’s their fault essentially because they haven’t lived correctly. Before I was diagnosed I ate properly exercised and practice yoga and meditation. I was a committed vegetarian. Then I became ill despite all of my “good“ behavior. My genetics and One of the many viral illnesses I was exposed to in my job, probably Epstein bar virus, set off a cascade of events that made me incredibly ill. There is no evidence-based research to support what you are claiming. If a vegan lifestyle and chanting have cured your lupus that’s fantastic but don’t shove your reality on to me. Those things have not cured my lupus, they have not made a dent in my lupus. Period. Do you know what finally did? Medications. And those medications, and believe me I did do the research before I took them, have been studied and have real evidence-based medical data to support them and their use, and their efficacy. I suspect That the true reason lupus patients are dying in this country an earlier age is due to the decline in the quality of medical care and the access to decent medical treatment along with cardiovascular disease which is due to diabetes and hypertension. These diseases are accelerated in lupus patients because of the medications we have to take to keep us alive. If I were not taking Benlysta, CellCept, and plaquenil I don’t think I’d ever get out of bed and I would still be spending the majority of my time hospitalized. These medications have side effects and risks and those risks include accelerated cardiovascular disease and diabetes which as I mentioned above cause early death. So, there is a place for nutrition absolutely and there’s a place for exercise and there’s a place for yoga and there’s a place for prayer but watch how you treat your fellow man. Don’t shove your opinion down my throat or anyone else’s. You don’t live in anyone else’s skin and neither do I and so I don’t have the right to judge what you decide to do and what works for you. What I resent and what I abhor are people who attempt to push a lifestyle on me as a substitute for my medications while judging me for taking them. There’s something in the Bible about that… judge not, lest thy be judged? I’d ask you to keep your judgements to yourself please. Share your story so others can learn what has worked for you but never judge what another person has to do to stay alive.

    • Lisa says:

      Well put Dr.Kritz What seems to me from reading all these comments is that people have forgotten that Lupus is not like a cold, where your treatment is basically all the same for everyone,(cold meds or not lots of rest and some good old fashion chicken soup.) Lupus has and always will be an individual based Illness. What is good for one may not be good for another.I was diagnosed at 27 and was giving a year to live and I just turned 52. I don’t know what advice to give because I’ve tried it all and at different times.I’ve been on the medications and it pulled out of some tough flares.I’ve tried all natural remedies and they worked for awhile.Everyone is different and Lupus never stays the same.I agree with the Dr., no one has the right to tell anyone to suck it and do it their way.

    • Linda Thornley says:

      I thoroughly agree with you. I am a retired psychologist and PhD candidate, who had a full life. I have wondered for many, many years why I have so many serious ailments. At one stage I was seeing about fifteen specialists. No one could work out what was wrong. I had to retire from work at age 52, instead of 75 as I had always planned. Unfortunately i had a seizure at work, and thus ended my career.Being spiritual, I had not charged many of my patients and so I now live on a disability pension, unable to care for my home and garden and risk losing my home as I still have a mortgage.

      My sister and brother want nothing to do with me as they do not believe I have anything wrong with me. The problem is, I appear healthy at times, and when I am very ill I stay home in bed and no one sees me. Lupus is a devastating disease and for me, although symptomatic for many years, it is probably too late now to do anything about it, as it has gone to the brain, in the form of dementia, seizures (non-epileptic) that each last an hour and during which I am a soul trapped in a body that is aware, feels pain, can think and understand, but I can do nothing, so achieve a Glasgow Coma Score of 3!!!!! The heart is also compromised and has been for years and my hands are being eaten away by this disease. I have about seventy symptoms, all part of SLE.

      I was finally diagnosed recently at age 65 because I went to see my GP and said to her, “I look like a damn butterfly! It is so embarrassing.” Incidentally I love butterflies, but I had to get the message across in a nice way. She then sent me for blood tests etc. which confirms that it is, indeed SLE. She hadn’t added up the facts that I have chronic mini strokes, high blood pressure since age 19, many auto-immune conditions, go into remission, and the list goes on. I finally diagnosed myself and had it confirmed by medical practitioners. I am sick of being hospitalised and walking out of hospital or leaving in a wheelchair and I no longer see any of my specialists except for the immunologist and my cardiologist. The thyroid no longer functions, the muscles of swallowing are compromised as is the colon, my head feels as if it is going to explode, and I am able to walk only 20 metres.

      I am not afraid of dying as I have clinically died three times in the past thirty years- in fact I look forward to it. I am fighting to live at the moment so that I can get my book published relating to my deep core Near-death Experiences. This gives me purpose, but still it is sometimes very difficult to keep going with only my darling dog and my goldfish and constant fear of bills coming in.

      I live very frugally, but need my book published, somehow so that I can pay off my mortgage and build an orphanage in India.

      This is my journey and we each have our own journey. I try to be pragmatic about the severe chronic pain and have met other lovely people suffering from SLE. All the meditation, visualisation, yoga and so on are distraction techniques but they are not the answer to curing Lupus as there is no cure. I use all of these and taught them to my patients during my 28 years of practice, but they do not solve the problem. I make candles, when I am able to, read large print books, am learning more languages at home, and am just embarking on some gentle exercise at home. I have been a very strict vegetarian since I was young, do not gamble, smoke, use alcohol or recreational drugs. When I am able to, I sing to patients in a local nursing home- it stimulates their brains and mine and helps to alleviate the dementia.

      If anyone reads this, I sincerely wish you well in your struggle with this debilitating disease which can and does take over your life during a flare. If you are like me, and facing death, I hope you find peace, as I have, and I hope you are able to find support. Many Blessings.

    • joanne campbell says:

      I have just left a similar comment silly people with light lupus can get up go yoga fill themselves with rainbows an sherbert at the spirit lodge etc , I have a chronic Lupus induced light allergy just switching on a light or looking out of a window can induce a flare ,I have been bed bound for 3 years unable to tolerate solid warm food without having serious anti sickness meds and the idea of eating any food would be heaven , All my teeth have been removed because of constant infections (lupus \ SJOGREN’S ) I AM ON BLOOD THINNERS DUE TO CONSTANT BLOOD CLOTS, before leaving unhelpful comments on diet & exercise educate yourselves on how bad lupas can get its most upsetting and unhelpful for those of us too ill to eat or leave our beds .

    • Lincoln Allen says:

      My25 yo daughter died in the hospital. given 10 liters of fluid plus blood plasma and platlets all while she had no urinary out put. They stopped her communicating with us by gicving versed and other neuroleptic IV push. She never woke up.
      Where was all this fluid going?Dilating hte heart beyond its capacity.
      Why did they give her meds to make her unconscious when she was communicating with us?
      She was intubated but oxygen level stayed at 70% and lower.
      whats the point of intubation if you don’t control the oxygen saturation?
      They killed my baby. I will be burying her in 2 days.

      Don’t take anyone including your dog or cat to JFK hospital in Edison New Jersey unless you want them to die.

    • Robert Holaday says:

      Dr, you are right on. Maybe these people have mild lupus, like myself – with factors for APS in my case.. However, without Plaquenil I think my life would be pretty miserable. I well remember a 14 day stay in the hospital before they decided my problems were autoimmune. My ability to work would be done, too, without medicine. People should never disparage evidence based medicine. God gives us minds to use amidst this less than perfect world. Medicine is a blessing!
      Rev. Robert Holaday

  6. Dawn says:

    Lupus cannot be cured. Nutrition and alternative medicines alone will not get rid of lupus. It makes me sick how many say this and give false hope to sick people. I’m glad that you are in remission and have had no flares, but mark my words, it’s not gone. Telling people to stop taking the medications that are going to ultimately prolong their life is just plain wrong. I tried this route myself, in hopes that it would be a cure. It’s not. I have significant neurological damage in return.
    Everyone is not the same. What works for me might not work for you. How my flares are and what it damages will be different from someone else. Count your blessings that it worked for you and do not spread false hope to someone else.

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