Mortality and Causes of Death, 2010

South Africans are faced with a double-edged problem: high number of deaths due to communicable diseases and rising deaths due to non-communicable diseases.

The 2010 annual statistical release on Mortality and Causes of Death published by Statistics South Africa on 11 April 2013 presents key findings on the number of deaths that occurred in South Africa in 2010 and their causes. The release further shows trends on death occurrences from 1997 to 2010 and trends in causes of death between 2008 and 2010. The data used in the release were collected through the civil registration system of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The information on causes of death provided in the release is as reported by medical practitioners certifying the occurrence of death.

The results generally showed that mortality continues to decline in the country as observed since 2007.  A total of 543 856 deaths occurred in 2010, which was a 6,2% decline from 579 711 deaths that occurred in 2009. Furthermore, median ages at deaths showed that mortality occurs later in life, which is also an indication of declining mortality. In 2010, the median age at death was estimated at around 48 years, which has increased by about five years since 2004. The declining pattern in mortality is also confirmed by the progressive decline in the crude death rate.

While KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had the highest overall number of deaths occurring in these provinces, Free State had the highest death rate. This measure takes into consideration the number of deaths as well as the population size. For this reason, the statistical release was launched in Thabo Mofutsanyane district in Phuthaditjhaba, the district with the highest death rate in Free State. The launch is an attempt by Stats SA to provide communities with information that should be used for the assessment and monitoring of the health status of the population and for planning of adequate health interventions at the local level.

The causes of death analysis show that the main group of certain infectious and parasitic diseases accounted for about a quarter of all deaths in 2010. Tuberculosis maintained its rank as the number one leading cause of death in South Africa, accounting for nearly 12% of deaths that occurred in 2010.  On the one hand, the trend analysis of causes of death indicates a decrease in the number of deaths due to the first three leading underlying natural causes of death (tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia and intestinal infectious diseases). On the contrary, the number of deaths due to diabetes mellitus and HIV disease increased between 2008 and 2010. The patterns observed may also be an indication of improved reporting for specific causes of death.

Though Tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia and intestinal infectious diseases have declined in recent years, the country is now faced with a double disease burden of a high number of deaths related to communicable diseases due to tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia and intestinal infectious diseases and a rise in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, the number of deaths due to HIV disease also increased. These results indicate that South Africa is faced with a disease burden that is twofold: one prevalent in developed nations and another that is widespread in developing nations.

In light of these findings, targeted health interventions in the country are paramount to deal with the double-edged problem noted in the country.

The full report is available on the Statistics South Africa website:


Issued by:

Pali Lehohla

Statistician General



Ms Kefiloe Masiteng

Deputy Director General: Population & Social Statistics

Tel: (012) 310 4663

Mobile: 083 389 3673



Mr. Trevor Oosterwyk

Manager: Communications

Tel: (012) 310 8130

Mobile : 082 908 9104