The objective of this study was to examine factors predictive of a decline to low levels of disease activity in a cohort of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. Patients with SLE of Hispanic (from Texas or Puerto Rico), African-American or Caucasian ethnicity from a multiethnic cohort were included. A decline to low levels of disease activity was defined as a score ≤5 as per the Systemic Lupus Activity Measure-Revised (SLAM-R) at any annual study visit if preceded by a SLAM-R ≥8. Using Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE), socioeconomic-demographic, behavioral, function, psychological, laboratory and clinical data [disease manifestations, number of ACR criteria accrued at diagnosis and damage accrual as per the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) Damage Index (SDI)] from the visit preceding that meeting the definition were examined as predictors of decline to low levels of disease activity. Two-hundred and eighty-seven patients (67 Hispanics from Texas, 32 Hispanics form Puerto Rico, 120 African-Americans and 68 Caucasians), accounting for 632 visits were analyzed. In the GEE multivariable analysis, higher degrees of social support (OR = 1.208, 95% CI 1.059-1.379; P = 0.005) were predictive of a decline to low levels of disease activity, while the number of ACR criteria accrued at diagnosis (OR = 0.765, 95% CI 0.631-0.927; P = 0.006) and damage (OR = 0.850, 95% CI 0.743-0.972, P = 0.018) were negatively associated. These data suggest that a decline to low levels of disease activity in lupus patients seems to be multifactorial; this study also underscores the importance of social support for lupus patients. © 2006 Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.