What’s killing so many young people in South Africa?

Parents expect – and  hope – to die before their children. It’s the natural order of things. South Africa has a disturbingly high rate of deaths among young people – nearly 78,000 in 2013, according to a new Statistics SA report, though a welcome sign is that this number represents a decline from the peak in youth deaths around 2005. Statistics SA says in most cases, the cause of death among young people in 2013 was  ‘natural’. Parents would probably disagree with the use of that word. Statistics SA also says that young people have borne the brunt of the recession since 2008 through job losses and have not benefited from the mild recovery, according to an African News Agency report. Here, News24’s Adam Wakefield looks at what’s really killing our young people, and what we should be doing about it. – Marika Sboros

deathJohannesburg (News24) – A total of 77 822 South Africans between the ages of 15 and 34 years old died in 2013, the majority of whom were black Africans or coloured, according to a new Statistics SA report released on Monday.

Of those, less than 30% were unnatural deaths.

According to the report on morbidity and mortality levels among South African youth in 2013, more male than female youths died in the 10 year period between 2001 and 2011.

“Trends in the number of deaths show that, as is the case with deaths in the rest of the country, deaths among youth peaked around 2005, and has been declining consistently in later years.

“There was a decline of 64.3% in mortality between the two periods,” the report stated.

KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape had higher proportions of deaths occurring amongst the youth. Female deaths contributed higher to increasing mortality and to the decline.

Natural causes were the most common cause of death, while non-natural causes of death contributed less than 30% of all deaths.

Communicable diseases deaths

Nearly half of all male deaths were due to non-natural causes, as compared to women.

“Just over half of deaths to white and Indian/Asian youths were due to non-natural causes, and this figure is 50% as well for those residing in Western Cape.

“More than half of the deaths among the youth were due to communicable diseases,” the report stated.

“More females, youth from the black African and the coloured population groups, and the youth in KwaZulu-Natal died from communicable [contagious] diseases.”

Young men aged between 15 and 29 were more likely to die due to external causes, than communicable and non-communicable diseases.

“Deaths due to external causes among males declined with increasing age, while deaths through communicable diseases increase as age increases,” according to the report.

“Deaths due to communicable diseases were higher among females of all sub-age groups, while those due to external causes were the least important for young females.”

External causes

Most young black Africans between 15 and 19 years of age died from external causes in 2013, with the same applying to coloured youth aged between 15 and 25 years old.

“This pattern changed from deaths through external causes to mainly communicable diseases for black African youth in the 20–34 age groups and the coloureds in the 25–34 age group,” the report said.

“The youth from the white and the Indian/Asian population groups died mainly from external causes across all sub-age groups and less from communicable diseases. Of the ten leading natural causes of death among the youth in 2013, half were due to communicable diseases.”

Tuberculosis, HIV, and other viral diseases accounted for just over a quarter of all the deaths among the youth in 2013.

The report stated that the top six leading causes of deaths were the same for both sexes, with the contribution of all leading causes of death to overall death numbers for each sex higher for women compared to men.

“The leading cause of death for the black African and Asian/Indian population groups was tuberculosis, while ischaemic heart diseases was the leading cause for the white population, and the human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] disease for the coloured population group,” the report said.

Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death among the youth in seven provinces except for Western Cape and Northern Cape, where HIV was the first.

The report concluded that there was still a need to intensify efforts to prevent diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV among youth in South Africa.


(Visited 202 times, 3 visits today)