Nearly 90% of the 456 612 deaths that occurred in 2016 can be attributed to natural causes, while the total shows a major decrease in the peak yearly deaths since 2006.
Statistics South Africa released its report, Mortality and causes of death in South Africa, 2016: Findings from death notification, on Tuesday. According to the report, only 51 242 deaths were as a result of unnatural causes.
Assault, car accidents and other external causes of accidental injury were the main reasons for unnatural deaths in men between the ages of 15 to 44.
"For specific causes, the main difference between males and females was the percentage of deaths due to assault as well as complications of medical and surgical care," the report said.
"On the one hand, as much as 16.9% of male non-natural deaths were due to assault, while 7.4% of female deaths were due to the same cause."
More than 3 000 boys and men between the ages of 15 and 44 were killed in car accidents in 2016, while just over 900 women in the same age category were killed in car accidents.
"The distribution of non-natural causes of death by sex in 2016 showed that there were 39 395 male deaths, 71.1% higher than the 11 402 deaths observed among females," the report said.
Plan to increase life expectancy
Among both men and women, the top natural causes of death included tuberculosis, HIV diseases, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular diseases, other viral diseases, chronic lower respiratory diseases, hypertensive diseases, ischaemic heart diseases and other forms of heart disease.
The report said the National Development Plan (NDP) adopted by South Africa envisioned life expectancy to increase from the low 60s to at least 70 years of age and a largely HIV-free population below 20 years of age.
"South Africa adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are also founded on leaving no one behind in health. Goal three of the SDGs aims to improve maternal and child health outcomes, end infectious diseases, reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases and injuries and ensure universal health coverage by 2030," the report said.
"Both the NDP and the SDGs are closely linked to Africa's Agenda 2063 which is a long-term inclusive and sustainable development framework for Africa.
"The agenda envisages a continent characterised by universal access to healthcare, zero communicable deaths, zero maternal deaths, zero child deaths and countries capable of mobilising domestic funding for preventing, detecting and responding to public health threats such as non-communicable diseases, health needs of the youth population and malnutrition by 2063."
The report said information on the number of deaths and their causes was invaluable.
"The information on the mortality levels, trends and differentials is important for the identification of emerging diseases and conditions, formulation of evidence-based health policies and tracking of the population health status," it said.