The aims of this study were to examine the predictors of time to neuropsychiatric (NP) damage and its impact on mortality in 632 systemic lupus erythematosus African-American, Hispanic and Caucasian LUpus in MInorities: NAture versus Nurture (LUMINA) patients, age ≥16 years and disease duration ≤5 years at baseline (T0). Time-to-NP damage and its impact on mortality were examined by Cox proportional hazards regressions. A total of 185 (29.3%) patients developed NP damage over a mean (SD) disease duration of 5.6 (3.7) years. After adjusting for NP manifestations present, older age [Hazard ratio (HR) = 1.02; 95% Confidence interval (CI) 1.00-1.04], Caucasian ethnicity (HR = 1.87; 95% CI, 1.22-2.87), disease activity over the disease course (HR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.12-1.21), diabetes (HR = 3.47; 95% CI, 1.44-8.38) and abnormal illness-related behaviours (HR = 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.08) were associated with a shorter time-to-NP damage. Photosensitivity (HR = 0.65; 95% CI, 0.44-0.95), anaemia (HR = 0.56; 95% CI, 0.31-0.98), Raynaud's phenomenon (HR = 0.49; 95% CI, 0.34-0.72), a medium dose of prednisone (HR = 0.56; 95% CI, 0.35-0.92) and hydroxychloroquine use (HR = 0.58; 95% CI, 0.36-0.93) were associated with a longer time. NP damage did not contribute to mortality. Older age, Caucasian ethnicity, disease activity and abnormal illness-related behaviours are associated with a shorter time-to-NP damage; hydroxychloroquine and a medium dose of prednisone with a longer time. © The Author(s), 2009.