Life expectancy South Africa
(Getty Images)
  • Almost 700,000 South Africans have died over the past year, according to Stats SA’s 2021 mid-year population estimates which were published on Monday.
  • This is similar to the deaths recorded at the height of the country’s HIV pandemic in 2006.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic had dropped South Africa’s life expectancy by 3.5 years, with males declining to below 60-years-old at rates last recorded in 2014.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Life expectancy in South Africa has declined for the first time in almost two decades due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has prompted a 34% rise in adult deaths in 2021. The Total Life Expectancy (LE) at birth has dropped by 3.5 years, with males declining to below 60-years-old at rates last recorded in 2014.

Almost 67,000 South Africans have died due to Covid-19 since the country’s first case was recorded in early March 2020. Nearly 200,000 excess deaths have been estimated by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

The majority of all recorded deaths are attributed to those aged 60 and above, according to data provide by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). These deaths have seen a significant decline in South Africa’s LE, steeper than the drop recorded during the height of the HIV pandemic in early-2000, according to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) latest mid-year population estimates which were published on Monday.

South Africa’s LE in 2006 dropped to 50.7 following five consecutive years of decline attributed to HIV/AIDS. Antiretroviral (ART) and prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) treatments saw the LE begin to recover in 2007. Since then, South Africa’s LE – recorded as the average number of years a new-born can expect to live based on the mortality conditions at the time – grew by almost 30% to 65.5 years in 2020.

Life expectancy South Africa
(Stats SA, Mid-year population estimates 2021)

“By 2021 life expectancy at birth is estimated at 59.3 years for males and 64.6 years for females which is a drop from 2020 where life expectancy at birth was 62.4 years and 68.4 years for males and females respectively, and this is attributable to the increase in deaths from Covid-19,” explains Stats SA.

Despite the increase in deaths over the past year, South Africa’s total population expanded by more than 1% and breached 60 million people. This is the slowest population growth rate recorded in almost two decades, according to Stats SA.

The sharpest decline was recorded in those aged 60 and above. Growth rates among the elderly halved in 2020/21 due to the “high mortality levels” of Covid-19 in those people aged 60 and above.

In line with South Africa’s LE, the country’s crude death rate (CDR) – calculated as the number of deaths per 1,000 population in a given year – declined from 12.9 in 2002 to 8.8 in 2020.

“However, it is clear from the drastic increase in CDR, from 8.8 deaths per 1,000 population in 2020 to 11.5 deaths per 1,000 population in 2021, is dramatically influenced by Covid-19 mortality rates in the country within just one year,” notes Stats SA.

Life expectancy South Africa
(Stats SA, Mid-year population estimates 2021)

Almost 700,000 South Africans have died over the past year compared to around 550,000 recorded the year prior. At the peak of HIV pandemic in 2006, South Africa recorded 696,827 deaths, making 2020/21 the second deadliest year in two decades.

“Similar to the HIV pandemic, the derived life expectancy at birth during the Covid-19 pandemic is affected by the selection effect of Covid-19 deaths… older persons and those with comorbidities face higher mortality,” explains Stats SA.

“The indicator should not be interpreted as a projection of an individual’s lifespan but rather should be used to shed light on the cumulative burden of a crisis such as Covid-19 compared to recent trends.”

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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