The Institute of Health Metric Evaluation (IHME) has been tracking the leading causes of death in South Africa and the world, and has published data from 1990 to 2013.
The group’s data tracks information from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), which is based on more than 50,000 different data sources which researchers have used to produce the most scientifically rigorous estimates possible.
The data tracks years of potential life lost as its metric (YLL), which is used by global health bodies to estimate the impact of death and disease in terms of population age.
In developed nations, death rates tend to be attributed to common causes of death in old people – in poorer and developing nations, more weight is given to death among younger populations.
The YLL measure thus shows which causes of death rob countries of the most potential life – highlighting the biggest problem areas, rather than simply tracking what killed the most number of people.
South Africa has an alarmingly high loss of years among its population. In 2013, 43,676 years of life were lost per 100,000 population across all causes of death – 23.2 million years, overall.
In 2013, Stats SA recorded over 480,000 deaths in the country – one-third (33%) were under the age of 40.
According to the IHME, HIV and HIV-related diseases are by far the biggest killers in the country, robbing citizens of over 21,711 potential years of life per 100,000 population. Combined with Tuberculosis, this shoots up to 23,168 years of life lost.
Communicable, maternal, neonatal and other nutritional diseases (including HIV) account for a loss of 30,516 potential years of life per 100,000 population.
Non-communicable diseases account for 9,186 years of life lost per 100,000 people, and injuries account for 3,973 years lost.
After HIV/AIDS, the second biggest killer in South Africa is lower respiratory infections, which are also often associated with HIV, but aren’t tracked under the same cause. This is followed by diarrheal diseases and tuberculosis.
This is followed by neoplasms – the abnormal growth of cells found most commonly in cancer.
Death in the country isn’t all disease-related, however, with interpersonal violence and “accidental injuries” also ranking high for South Africa – along with road traffic deaths, which are the 8th biggest killer in the country, according to the IHME.
Heart disease and diabetes are the 11th and 12th biggest killers, the data shows.
Here are the biggest killers in SA
|#||Cause of death||Years of life lost (per 100,000 population)|
|2||Lower respiratory infections||2 121|
|3||Neoplasms (cancer)||1 698|
|4||Diarrheal diseases||1 483|
|6||Unintentional Injuries||1 204|
|7||Interpersonal violence||1 194|
|8||Cerebrovascular disease||1 046|
|9||Chronic respiratory diseases||970|
|10||Transport (including road) injuries||948|