Senile cataract may be a marker of generalized tissue aging. We examined this hypothesis using population-based linked health data. We hypothesized that any such association would diminish with increased use of cataract surgery. Mortality rates of those 50-95 years of age undergoing cataract surgery in British Columbia during either 1985 or 1989 were compared with the provincial population of comparable age who did not undergo cataract surgery during the study period. The 1985 cohort included 8,262 patients undergoing surgery and a comparison population of 804,303, and the 1989 cohort included 11,952 patients and a comparison population of 839,393. Using Cox regression, for the 1985 cohort, the hazard ratios for dying during follow-up were 3.2 for males 50-54.9 years of age [95% confidence limits (CL) = 2.0, 5.0] and 3.3 for females (95% CL = 1.9, 5.7). Hazard ratios for older age groups decreased with age. We also fit an additive risk model that produced excess mortalities that were less age dependent. In the 1985 analysis, these ranged from +7.1 per 1,000 (95% CL = +0.44, +13.76) to +20.3 (95% CL = +13.24, +27.36) for males and -17.5 (95% CL = -28.28, -6.72) to +2.0 (95% CL = -2.12, +6.12) for females. Findings for the 1989 analyses were similar, indicating that the association between cataracts and generalized aging remained constant despite a large increase in the use of cataract surgery.