Reaching 100 has long fascinated societies. The century mark is regarded as an almost supernatural seal of hardiness and good health.

Centenarians are regularly celebrated in the media. Upon your 100th birthday in Britain you can expect a letter from The Queen, and in the United States, some get birthday greetings from The White House. Japanese centenarians receive a silver cup and a certificate from the Prime Minister, honoring them for their longevity.

For global longevity, the Japanese still have a firm grip on the crown. In fact, in 2004 Japanese women set a new record for life expectancy at 85.59 years, while the average Japanese man (No. 2 in the longevity stakes) can expect to live 78.64 years (Japan also boasts a robust number of centenarians and a number of super-centenarians (someone who's reached the ripe old age of 110 years or more). Super-centenarian status is something only achieved by one in a thousand centenarians.