• death rate;
  • hepatitis C;
  • mortality;
  • Norway;
  • survival

Summary.  Knowledge of the natural course and especially the total and cause-specific mortality of community-acquired chronic HCV infection is limited. The aims of our study were to determine the total and cause-specific mortality in patients infected with chronic hepatitis C in a community-based setting in northern Norway. This prospective cohort study included 1010 HCV-positive patients diagnosed with recombinant immunoblot assay between 1 January 1990 and 1 January 2000, with a median observation time from diagnosis to follow-up of 7 years. Data were collected from medical records in the period between 1 January 2004 and 30 June 2006. Time and cause of death were ascertained from the Norwegian Causes of Death Register. Age-adjusted death rates and standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) were compared with those of the general Norwegian population. In total, 122 deaths were recorded. The Kaplan–Meier estimate of survival was 88% at 14 years. The SMR in the cohort relative to the general population was 6.66. Most of the excess deaths in both genders were because of liver-related causes, those associated with a drug-using lifestyle and suicide. The statistically significant increase in SMRs ranged from 4.2 for death by cancer in women to 64.6 for liver disease in women. There was no statistically significant increase in SMRs from cardiovascular disease in either gender or from cancer in men. In conclusion, our study shows that the death rate in patients infected with hepatitis C is 6.66 times higher than in the general Norwegian population.