Statistician General Pali Lehohla releases GHS 2013 results at Tshedimosetso House in Pretoria, Wednesday, 18 June 2014. Picture: GCIS/SAPA

Johannesburg - The rate at which South Africans died had decreased over the past five years, with at least 32 000 fewer people dying between 2011 and 2012, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said on Thursday.

Lehohla said slightly more than 480 000 people died in 2011, compared to 512 000 the previous year, and this indicated the effectiveness of health intervention strategies and a better health system.

Tuberculosis remained the leading cause of death, with flu and pneumonia following close behind.

“Most deaths are now related to non-communicable diseases like heart diseases and diabetes than to communicable diseases,” he said, adding that HIV/Aids related deaths had also steadily declined since 2006.

Lehohla released the 2012 report on mortality and causes of death on Thursday, compiled from information taken from data at the Department of Home Affairs, which also revealed a slight increase in non-natural deaths in 2012, after a decline in 2007.

Certain infectious and parasitic diseases were the most common cause of death between 2010 and 2012, accounting for more than 20 percent of deaths each year. Diseases of the circulatory system came in second at 16 percent in 2012. An approximate 14 percent fell into a group called “symptoms and signs not elsewhere classified”, coming in third, and indicating a lack of improvement in the classification of ill-defined cases, Lehohla said.

More than 430 000 (80 percent) of the 480 000 deaths were natural, he said.

“People aged 15 to 24 are the highest proportion among this group, followed by the 60 to 64 age-group,” with the Western Cape and Northern Cape recording the highest proportion of unnatural deaths, at 11 percent and 10 percent respectively. Infants and people 60 and older died less from non-natural causes.

For overall deaths of children below 5, the first leading cause of death was intestinal infectious diseases (12.3 percent), followed by respiratory and cardiovascular disorders specific to the perinatal period (11.0 percent).

Flu and pneumonia (9.2 percent) ranked third, and other disorders originating in the perinatal period ranked fourth at 4.2 percent. Malnutrition ranked fifth and was responsible for 3.9 percent of all deaths occurring before five years.

Gauteng, Lehohla said, had recorded the most deaths by province, at 20.5 percent, with KwaZulu-Natal following closely behind with 20.1 percent. The Eastern Cape came in third with 13.6 percent. Lehohla explained that a small percentage of recorded deaths showed no cause of death, and said 21 percent of 2012 deaths were determined through post-mortem, 20 percent by the opinion of the attending medical practitioner. “In 27 percent, the method used to ascertain the cause of the death was unknown or unspecified,” he added.

A majority of people (42.6 percent) died in hospitals, followed by people dying in a nursing home and in unknown or unspecified places at 24.9 and 24.1 percent. Another 2.8 percent were classified as dying in “other”. The percentage of people pronounced dead on arrival at hospital was put at 1.9.

Lehohla said South Africa was the leader in the registration of death and causes in sub-Sahara: “We are one of only four countries who have these records, and we are the only country using the automated system and coding.” Everything was done in accordance with international standards, and with the aim of influencing and informing policy to meet the goals of health for all.

Some leading causes of child deaths:

0 - 5 years

* Respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.

* Disorders leading to length of gestation.

* Foetuses and newborns affected by maternal factors.

* Digestive system disorders.

* Influenza and pneumonia.

15 - 24

* Tuberculosis.

* HIV.

* Influenza and pneumonia.

* Other viral diseases.

* Disorders of the immune mechanism.

* Natural and non-natural causes.


* KZN had highest TB death rate.

* Diabetes, TB, cerebrovascular diseases, HIV were common.

* Diseases of the circulatory system more prevalent in the Western Cape.

* Western Cape and Northern Cape had more unnatural deaths.

* Limpopo and North West had the fewest unnatural deaths.

Unnatural deaths

* 0 - 14: higher proportions of transport accident and other external cases of accidental injury deaths.

* 15 - 49: dominated by other external events of undetermined intent.

* 65 and above: complications of medical and surgical care

More males died from unnatural deaths compared to females.

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