South Africa’s life expectancy takes a knock due to COVID-19

Statistics agency shows life expectancy at birth plunged by more than three years over past year.

According to Stats SA, life expectancy in the country has declined for the first time in nearly two decades due to the the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Life expectancy is a commonly used indicator of health and development in a country. According to a report published by the institution on Monday, between July 2020 and June 2021, the country’s crude death rate rose from 8,7 deaths per 1 000 people to 11,6 deaths per 1 000 people – representing an increase of about 33% in deaths reported in the country. It is this significant increase in deaths that has translated into a drop in the 2021 life expectancy at birth for both males and females, dealing a massive blow to the country given the notable improvements seen since the mid-2000s.

Compared to 2020, life expectancy at birth for males dropped by 3,1 years, declining from 62,4 to 59,3. That for females dropped by 3.8 years, from 68,4 in 2020 to 64,6 this year. The notable drop in the metric for both genders that has been seen over the past year reverses the gains made since the mid-2000s when the country was gripped by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. However even with this, Stats SA estimated the country’s population to have increased by 604 281 to reach 60.14 million by mid-2021. To date, 2.3 million positive cases have been confirmed and 67,080 related deaths have been recorded in the country. And as is, SA accounts for just over 40% of both Africa’s confirmed cases and fatalities – making it the hardest hit across the continent.