• Statistics South Africa released its annual "Mortality and Causes of Death" report on Tuesday.
  • It draws from 456,612 recorded deaths in 2016.
  • Tuberculosis and diabetes remain the biggest killers – as long as you exclude the much bigger category of "non-natural causes".

Statistics South Africa released its annual "Mortality and Causes of Death" report on Tuesday, which analyses the 456,612 deaths recorded in 2016.

Here are the top natural killers of South Africa in 2016.

See also: Diabetes now kills 36% more South African women than accidents, crime, and suicide put together

1. Tuberculosis: MDR, XDR, and plain old.

29,513 deaths, 6.5% of total deaths, 

As a percentage of deaths TB declined slightly, Stats SA said, but it was still the number one natural cause of death by a significant margin.

2. Diabetes.

25,255 deaths, 5.5% of total deaths. 

In 2013 diabetes was only the fifth biggest cause of natural death in South Africa. It jumped two places in 2014 and another in 2015, and in 2016 remained the number two killer.

It is the biggest natural cause of death for women by a considerable margin.

3. "Other" heart disease.

23,515 deaths, 5.1% of total deaths. 

The grab-bag category of heart diseases, excluding the big killers, ranked as the number four killer in 2015. It is now ranked higher than problems with blood flow in the brain.

4. Cerebrovascular disease.

23,137 deaths, 5.1% of total deaths.

Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions.

Strokes and aneurysms, the ways in which cerebrovascular disease typically kill, dropped one position in the ranking.

5. HIV.

21,830 deaths, 4.8% of total deaths.

Deaths due to HIV/Aids remained stead as the fifth largest natural underlaying cause of death.

6. Hypertensive disease.

19,960 deaths, 4.4% of total deaths.

But those only count if you exclude "non-natural causes" of death.

51,242 deaths, 11.2% of total deaths.


As always, the number one killer of people in South Africa was neither communicable nor lifestyle diseases, but what Stats SA categorises as "non-natural causes": mostly accidents, assault, and suicide.

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