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Pretoria – While the number of overall deaths in South Africa is on the decline, Tuberculosis continues to be the number one cause of death in the country, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said on Thursday.

The Mortality and Causes of Death 2012 report, released by Stats SA, showed that South Africa recorded 480 476 (deaths registered at the Department of Home Affairs) in 2012. This indicated a decrease of 6.2% from the 512 310 deaths that occurred in 2011.

“The numbers are actually declining. There is victory over the grave; of course the grave finally wins but absolute numbers are actually declining,” said Statistician General Pali Lehohla.

In 2012, Tuberculosis continued to be the number one leading cause of death among the population followed by influenza and pneumonia.

According to the report, Tuberculosis was the leading underlying cause of death for both men and women and accounted for 11% of male deaths and 8.7% of female deaths.

The report also found that more males died at a younger age than females.

For those aged between 15 and 49, Tuberculosis was a leading cause of death followed by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) disease, while the leading cause of death aged 0-14 was intestinal infectious diseases.

Tuberculosis was also the leading cause of death for those aged 50-64 followed by diabetes. Cerebrovascular diseases were the leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.

The median age at death for males, in 2007, was 44 and increased to 49 years in 2012. For females median ages at death increased from 44 years to 54 years over the same period.

Provincially, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of deaths. “Gauteng has a bigger population than KwaZulu-Natal but they share the same burden of death,” added Lehohla.

According to Stats SA, the driving force in lesser deaths in 2012 was due to a decline in the number of deaths attributable to communicable diseases. According to the report the proportion of deaths due to communicable diseases went down from 47% in 2007 to 40% in 2012.

The proportion of deaths due to non-communicable diseases like diabetes and stroke rose from 44% in 2007 to 51% in 2012, while deaths due to unnatural causes increased from 9% in 2007 to 10% in 2012.

Non communicable diseases are defined as diseases that are non-infectious, are of a long duration and generally slow progression, while communicable diseases are diseases that are infectious.

“Overall the number of deaths in South Africa is declining in absolute terms,” said Lehohla. The report is based on data collected by the Department of Home Affairs through the death registration system.