Levels and Causes of Adolescent Mortality in South Africa, 2001-2007

By Nicole De Wet and Clifford Odimegwu.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social and Community Studies

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Abstract: Most studies on mortality focus on under- five children and adults (18+). However between these ages lie an important population of adolescents, aged between 10 and 19 years old. A study on the causes of adolescent mortality from 1984 to 1986 found racial and gendered differences (Fischer, et al, 1992). However, this study admits to under-representing the African population and is out-dated. Although overall, the levels and numbers of adolescent mortality are not very high in South Africa, it is noted here that it is increasing over time. Research and measures need to be put into place now to avert the increasing adolescent mortality rates. This study uses descriptive statistics, age-specific mortality rates, proportional mortality ratios, a direct estimation of mortality, cause- specific mortality rates and associated single decrement life tables to examine the levels and causes of adolescent mortality in contemporary South Africa. Data from the 2001 Census and 2007 Community Survey are used. Findings from this paper show that adolescent mortality was highest in 2007at 54,046 adolescent deaths compared to the 41,443 deaths in 2001. Further, this paper shows that in 2007, life expectancy in the absence of unnatural causes of death would increase to 56 years among younger adolescents (10- 14 years old) and 51 years for older adolescents (15- 19 years old). In addition, the absence of certain infectious diseases including HIV/ AIDS and Tuberculosis, would increase life expectancy to an additional 57 years for younger adolescents according to 2007 data. Thus the prevention of these causes of death is of vital importance to national youth programmes and policies.

Keywords: Adolescents, Mortality, Life Expectancy, Associated Decrement Life Tables, Census, Causes of Death, Sex

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social and Community Studies, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.59-81. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 912.760KB).

Nicole De Wet

PhD Fellow and Teaching Assistant, Demography and Population Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

My PhD work is focused on using demographic and statistical techniques in studying adolescent mortality in South Africa. Mortality studies in general are my area of interest. My Masters dissertation looked at the association between domestic violence and child health outcomes in Zimbabwe. For this, I was awarded a distinction; it was the first distinction in the department at the University of the Witwatersrand. This work also won best oral presentation at an international conference for young graduates in 2009. At the university, I have been a tutor and research assistant since the start of 2010. My role includes lecturing (postgraduate and undergraduate classes), mentoring students, tutoring and assisting in the department's research and administrative goals. My passion is Demography and this department. We are growing in size and stature, and I hope to continue to produce African research and teach African demographers. In South Africa, Demography is a scarce skill, and I hope to contribute to my country's need through research and teaching.

Prof. Clifford Odimegwu

academic coordinator, PROGRAMME IN DEMOGRAPHY AND POPULATION STUDIES, University of the Witwatersrand, johannesburg, gauteng, South Africa

Head of Department, Demography and Population Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa