SA life expectancy

Image via: Adobe Stock

COVID-19: SA life expectancy slashed by more than THREE years

The significant rise in deaths in 2021, roughly 34%, meant a serious drop in SA’s life expectancy. Here’s what you need to know.

SA life expectancy

Image via: Adobe Stock

South Africa’s (SA) life expectancy has taken a significant drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stats SA released its 2021 mid-year population estimates this week and it has revealed some notable facts. 

The estimates show that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted mortality and migration in the country since the start of the pandemic early in 2020.

The population of South Africa was estimated to be 60.14 million at mid-year 2021, which is an increase of about 604 281 (1,01%) since mid-year 2020.


SA experienced both peaks of deaths in the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic within the 2021 Mid-year Population Estimates (MYPE) period between July 2020 and June 2021. 

Stats SA said this resulted in a significant increase in the crude death rate (CDR) from 8.7 deaths per 1 000 people in 2020 to a whopping 11.6 deaths per 1 000 people in 2021. 

“The significant rise in deaths in 2021 (approximately 34%), meant a drop in the 2021 Life expectancy (LE) at birth for South Africa,” it said. 

Life expectancy at birth for males declined from 62.4 in 2020 to 59.3 in 2021 (3.1 year drop) and from 68.4 in 2020 to 64.6 for females (3.8 year drop). 


Stats SA said that while the SA life expectancy at birth indicator is an important health indicator, it should not be interpreted as a projection of an individual’s lifespan, but should rather be used to shed light on the cumulative burden of a crisis compared to recent trends.

Ways to see SA life expectancy revert back to the way it was would include greater vaccination coverage, continued prevention practices like mask-wearing; social distancing, sanitising of hands and surfaces, further innovation in drug and treatment protocols and the avoidance of more severe or infectious strains of the virus. 

“What is certain is that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the very core of how we interact in society and what we once knew as normal. As new data becomes available over time, we will have a better sense of the full impact of the pandemic on the demography of the nation and the world,” it said.