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The average life spans of Japanese women and men rose in 2000 to records of 84.62 years and 77.64 years, respectively, according to a survey released by Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Thursday.

The 2000 data shows the average life span for women was extended 0.63 years from 83.99 years in the previous year while that of men grew 0.54 years from 77.10 years. Japanese women on average live the longest in the world, a record they have held for 16 straight years, while Japanese men follow their counterparts in Iceland and Sweden.

The report also shows the gap between the average life expectancies of Japanese women and men expanded to almost seven years, the widest ever, the report said.

The men’s average life span decreased from the 1998 survey, presumably due to an increase of suicide cases among middle-aged men under economic recession and the prevalence of influenza.

The women’s average also fell in 1999 from the previous year.

Over the long term, the average life span of Japanese has continued to rise, supported by progress of medical technology, according to the ministry.

If the “three major diseases” that kill Japanese — cancer, heart disease, and cerebral disease — are conquered, the average life expectancy would extend 8.02 years for women and 8.72 years for men.

Japanese women lead Swiss women, who live an average of 82.5 years (in 1998), and Hong Kong women at 82.4 years (in 1999). In the case of men, the world’s longest life spans include 77.5 years for Icelanders (in 1998-1999) and 77.38 years for Swedes (in 2000).

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