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What is the life expectancy of someone with ulcerative colitis?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Dec 21, 2021.

Official answer


The life expectancy of people with ulcerative colitis (UC) is usually the same as anybody without the disease if the condition is well managed and treated and complications do not arise if surgery is needed. One cohort study found that people over the age of 50 years who had extensive colitis when they were first diagnosed were more likely to die within the first two years of diagnosis from complications associated with surgery and other coexisting conditions.

In this cohort, there was no difference in the number of deaths that occurred compared to the expected number. The average age at death among men was 70 years (this ranged from 6 years to 96 years) and among women was 74 years (range, 25 years to 96 years). Twenty-five (9.6%) people died because of UC complications, mostly infectious and heart-related post-surgery complications. There was no increased death rate from colorectal cancer in those with UC compared with those without, and the death rate from cancer, in general, was lower than expected (50 vs. 71). But people with UC did have a higher risk of dying from blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and pneumonia. Women with UC also had a significantly higher risk than women without UC of suicide and dying from genitourinary tract diseases.

  • Wiginton K. Ulcerative Colitis Complications and Prognosis March 09, 2021. WebMD
  • Winther KV, Jess T, Langholz E, Munkholm P, Binder V. Survival and cause-specific mortality in ulcerative colitis: follow-up of a population-based cohort in Copenhagen County. Gastroenterology. 2003 Dec;125(6):1576-82. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2003.09.036. PMID: 14724807.

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