Adolescent mortality in South Africa: An analysis of unnatural causes of deaths by sex, 2000-2009

  • Nicole De Wet University of the Witwatersrand
  • Genevieve Dean University of the Witwatersrand
  • Clifford O Odimegwu University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: Adolescents, Mortality, South Africa, Unnatural causes of death, Cause-specific mortality rates, Proportional mortality ratios


Despite South Africa being a peaceful democracy for the past 18 years, mortality due to unnatural and violent causes still occur among the youth, who are aged between 15 and 34 years old (Presidency of the Republic of South Africa 2009). However, this is not specific to South Africa; with developed countries experiencing the same trend. In developed countries, Christoffe (1994) found that death due to unnatural causes, specifically related to violence, had increased especially among the youth. South Africa is now moving towards the same transition that is currently experienced by developed nations in the world: violent deaths as a major cause of death amongst the youth which includes some adolescents (10-19 years old) (Norman, et al, 2007). With this in mind, this paper aims to examine the different levels of male and female adolescent mortality due to five unnatural causes of death. Data from South African Death Notification Forms is analysed for the years 2000-2009. Cause-specific mortality rates and proportional mortality ratios are produced. Results show adolescents are dying from events of undetermined intent, transport accidents’ and self- harm, especially males. The selected causes of death are contributing up to 27% of all adolescent male mortality and almost 12% of all female mortality in 2009. The results of this paper allude to crime, violence and safety issues in South Africa.


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Author Biographies

Nicole De Wet, University of the Witwatersrand
Demography and Population Studies
Genevieve Dean, University of the Witwatersrand
Demography and Population Studies
Clifford O Odimegwu, University of the Witwatersrand
Demography and Population Studies