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April 5th, 2018 by


Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has released the Mortality and Causes of Death report for 2016. Granted, these figures are two years old, and a lot can change in South Africa in that time, but a tremendous amount of work goes into releasing these reports. We may even find that the results are comparable to today, with a few exceptions.

In 2016, Cape Town was placed in the top ten most violent cities in the world, rubbing shoulders with cities in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Honduras. Nothing has changed in 2018.

In 2018, South Africa is still frequently placed among the top ten countries with the highest murder rates in the world. The ‘Rainbow Nation’ has a high frequency of assault, rape, murder and a variety of other violent crimes. Local police statistics suggest that around 50 people are murdered each and every day.

The Stats SA Mortality and Causes of Death report provides an overview of how South Africans are dying. It also highlights variations between location, age and gender. Let’s take a look at the results.

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How South Africans Die

According to the report, 456 612 deaths were recorded in 2016. This was a decline from the 473 266 recorded deaths in 2015.

Of these, 214 988 were women and 240 001 were men.  That’s 112 male deaths for every 100 female deaths.

Additionally, 1623 were listed as unspecified gender.

Most of the men (8.6%) died between the ages of 60 and 64 years old. Most of the females (8.3%) died between 75 and 79 years old.

Among men, the biggest killer was Tuberculosis. Diabetes Mellitus was number one for women.

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The most populous provinces saw the most deaths occur, such as 21.3% in Gauteng and 18.6% in KwaZulu-Natal.

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57.4% of deaths in 2016 were due to non-communicable diseases. These are chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. 31.4% were due to communicable diseases, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

88.8% of all deaths were due to natural causes.

Only 11.2% were due to injury. The report revealed that one in five South Africans die from unnatural causes, such as drowning, poisoning, smoke inhalation or car crashes.

In unnatural causes of death, the Western Cape (13.3%) and KZN (12.1%) saw the highest percentages. Limpopo (9.2%) was the lowest.

When it came to transport accidents, though, Limpopo (31.8%) saw the highest percentage, and surprisingly, Gauteng (2.5%) the lowest.

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With assault as the cause of death, the Western Cape (24.4%) was the highest. Mpumalanga (5.2%) was the lowest.

In both cases of assault and transport accidents, the numbers peaked over December.

A little more than one in five South African deaths (22.6%) occurred at home. Stats SA said that the latter point is worth noting. If most people die at home, and not in healthcare facilities, it may impact on the accuracy of the certification of causes of death.

The Top Ten Causes Of Death In South Africa

The top ten killers in South Africa, in 2016, were as follows:

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  1. Ill-defined and unknown causes of mortality – 57 159 deaths (12‚5%);
  2. Other external causes of accidental injury (includes drowning‚ smoke inhalation‚ poisoning) – 34 096 deaths (7‚5%);
  3. Tuberculosis – 29 513 deaths (6‚5%);
  4. Diabetes – 25 255 deaths (5‚5%);
  5. Other forms of heart disease (includes pericarditis‚ endocarditis‚ pulmonary valve disorders‚ cardiac arrest‚ atrial fibrillation) – 23 515 deaths (5‚2%);
  6. Cerebrovascular diseases – 23 137 deaths (5‚1%);
  7. HIV – 21 830 deaths (4‚8%);
  8. Hypertensive diseases – 19 960 deaths (4‚4%);
  9. Influenza and pneumonia – 19 638 deaths (4‚3%);
  10. Other viral diseases (includes cytomegaloviral disease‚ mumps‚ infectious mononucleosis‚ viral conjunctivitis) – 16 577 deaths (3‚6%).

If we were to separate these causes by natural and unnatural, we would have the top five natural causes being TB, diabetes, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and HIV/AIDS.

The top five unnatural causes would be “other external causes of accidental injury”, assault, transport accidents, “event of undermined intent” and complications arising from medical and surgical care.

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