A new report shows a drop in the rate at which people have been dying in South Africa, the Medical Research Council (MRC) said on Thursday.
"The Rapid Mortality Surveillance Report 2011 shows that the mortality rate of children under five years of age fell from 73 per 1000 live births to 42 per 1000 live births... over the past six years," the MRC said in a statement.
The probability of a 15-year-old dying before the age of 60 had fallen from 51 percent to 40 percent over the same period.
As a result, the average life expectancy in the country had improved from a low of 54 in 2005, to 60 in 2011.
"This has been achieved through a reduction in the mortality of both children and young adults," said MRC researcher Dr Debbie Bradshaw.
She attributed the improvement to the roll-out of HIV treatment and the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV.
However, there could also be other factors, particularly in the case of children.
"This is excellent news for the country, but it is not all good news, and we are still concerned about South Africa meeting the maternal and child health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015."
Maternal mortality had worsened to an estimated level of 333 per 100 000 live births in 2009.
While the infant and under-five mortality rates had improved, the neo-natal (babies under one month) mortality rate showed no sign of improvement by 2009.
These trends indicated the importance of the government's strategies to improve the quality of health care.
A report on under-five mortality released in April by the MRC highlighted data challenges in this area.
Further improvements in death registration were needed, the MRC said.