Japan returned to the top spot in terms of women’s average life span in 2012, a year after falling to second place behind Hong Kong, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said in an annual report released Thursday.
The average life span for Japanese women stood at 86.41 years, up 0.51 from the previous year. Hong Kong women topped the rankings at 86.70 years in 2011.
Japanese men’s average life span was 79.94 years in 2012, up 0.50 from a year earlier and fifth-longest in the world, the report showed. The average life spans of both women and men showed the first increase in three years.
In 2011, the average life spans of both men and women declined because of the large number of people who died due to the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster that devastated many municipalities along the Tohoku region coast.
Average life expectancy is the expected number of years of life for babies born in a given year.
In Japan, the probability of babies born in 2012 dying from the three main causes of death — cancer, heart disease and stroke — surpassed 50 percent for men but was below 50 percent for women.
It is estimated that average life expectancy would rise by 7.37 years for men and 6.17 years for women if cures were found for the three diseases.
“As mortality rates fall thanks to advances in medical research, average life expectancies are likely to rise further,” a ministry official said.