Leading causes of death in South Africa

Statistics South Africa has published a report on the top 10 leading causes of mortality in South Africa, based on all death notification forms maintained by the Department of Home Affairs.

The report, published on Tuesday (15 June), does not include deaths due to Covid-19 as these will be published after the 2020 processing cycle, the statistics body said.

The data shows that mortality levels are declining in the country as seen by the downward trend in the number of registered deaths since 2007.

The 65-69 age group had the highest proportion of deaths in 2018 at 8.4%, followed closely by the 60-64 age group at 8.3%.

Natural deaths

The top 10 leading underlying natural causes of death for the reporting period were:

  • Tuberculosis;
  • Diabetes mellitus;
  • Cerebrovascular diseases;
  • Other forms of heart disease;
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease;
  • Hypertensive diseases;
  • Influenza and pneumonia;
  • Ischaemic heart diseases;
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases;
  • Malignant neoplasms of digestive organs.

Non-natural deaths

Although the number of deaths due to natural causes was higher than the number of deaths due to non-natural causes, the proportion of deaths due to non-natural cause have been on a slight increase in the recent years, StatsSA said.

Between 2010 and 2018, a consistent increase in the proportions of deaths due to non-natural causes was noted from 9% in 2010 to 11.9% in 2018.

The age groups most affected by non-natural causes of death in 2018 were 20-24 years and 15-19, accounting for 49.2% and 42.5%, respectively.

Males had higher proportions of deaths due to non-natural causes compared to females, with a wider difference observed at age group 15-29 where as much as 58.1% of male deaths resulted from non-natural causes compared to 19.8% of female deaths in the same age group.

The main cause of non-natural deaths are:

  • Accidental injury (68.3%)
  • Assault (14%)
  • Transport accidents (11.4%)

In total, KwaZulu-Natal had the highest proportion of deaths due to non-natural causes (13.5%), followed closely by Cape Town (13%).


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Leading causes of death in South Africa