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Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, investigates the top 11 chronic diseases in South Africa.

Did you know chronic diseases – otherwise known as noncommunicable diseases, are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, accounting for nearly 60% of all deaths and 43% of the global disease burden?

According to the World Health Organization, chronic disease is expected to account for 73% of all deaths by 2020.

“Chronic diseases are long-term illnesses caused by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“Although chronic diseases are frequently associated with older age groups, evidence suggests that thousands of South Africans are dying of chronic diseases before the age of 70.”

Affinity Health discusses the top 10 chronic diseases South African should be mindful of.


The sheer number of heart disease or stroke fatalities is a growing concern in SA. According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, 215 people die from heart disease or strokes daily. Every hour, five people have heart attacks, and 10 have strokes. Because there is a lack of awareness about cardiovascular disease, many people go undiagnosed and untreated until it is too late.


One in every three adults (13 million) in South Africa has impaired fasting glucose (IFG), putting them at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is the country’s second deadliest disease, according to Statistics South Africa‘s 2021 report on mortality and causes of death.

It has claimed more lives than HIV, hypertension, and other forms of heart disease combined. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and amputation of lower limbs.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in South Africa, with a prevalence rate of 55.1% in urban areas and between 29.5% and 82.7% in adults over 65 years of age in rural areas.

As many patients are unsure how to manage their symptoms, arthritis coexists with other chronic conditions. This disease is surprisingly common among children, affecting one to four out of every 1000.


Cancer care is expected to cost $240 billion (R4160 billion) by 2030, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Cancer Institute estimates, due to healthcare inflation over the previous decades.

Despite declining cancer rates, the CDC predicts that cancer will remain one of the leading causes of death in South Africa. It is estimated that nearly 110,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in South Africa by 2020, with over 56,000 cancer-related deaths accounting for one-quarter of all premature noncommunicable disease-related mortality.

The most effective cancer prevention measures continue to be early screenings, raising awareness about preventative techniques, and developing strategic partnerships.


Obesity statistics in South Africa are concerning, with approximately 31% of men and 68% of women obese. Obesity and being overweight can lead to various lifestyle diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

Obesity is a major issue in adults and children, with more than 13% of South African children aged 6-14 years classified as overweight or obese.

Education, promoting access to healthier foods, and providing preventive care to paediatric patients can help maintain a healthy weight.


According to the most recent World Alzheimer’s Report, South Africa has 4.4 million people over the age of 60 living with the disease. Around 187,000 of these people have dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of ageing. Although most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, people younger than 65 can also develop the disease. It is the most common cause of dementia that worsens over time. In most cases, the symptoms develop gradually and become severe enough to interfere with daily activities.


More than 500 000 people in South Africa have epilepsy. Seizures caused by epilepsy can sometimes result in death. People with epilepsy may also have poor mental health or other impairments that are difficult to detect.


Asthma affects more than 20% of children and 10-15% of adults in South Africa. It is not uncommon for those suffering from the illness to be hospitalised during an attack, which can significantly reduce their quality of life.


High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects more than one in every three adults in South Africa. Because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs that blood pressure is high, it is referred to as a “silent killer”.

As a result, more than half of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. Symptoms such as headaches, visual disturbances, nose bleeds, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, and sleepiness may sometimes occur, typically with extremely high blood pressure. It would be best if you did not wait for symptoms to appear. High blood pressure becomes more common with age, but anyone, regardless of age, gender, fitness level, or lifestyle, can develop it.


In South Africa, the overall HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be around 13.7%. In 2021, the total number of people living with HIV was expected to be approximately 8.2 million. HIV infection affects an estimated 19.5% of adults aged 15 to 49 years.


In South Africa, tuberculosis is a significant public health concern. Every year, approximately 450,000 people contract the disease, with 270,000 also infected with HIV.

TB is the leading cause of death in South Africa. It kills approximately 89,000 people per year, or 10 people every hour. Effective treatments are available, and the country has made significant progress in combating the disease, but much more is required to bring it under control.

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One Comment

  • Debbie Williams February 14, 2023 at 11:09 am

    The diabetes and obesity statistics were the most shocking for me!


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