The life span of Japanese women, already the longest in the world, grew to an average 85.33 years in 2003.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s 2003 “abridged life tables,” released Friday, show the average life expectancy of Japanese women grew 0.10 year from a year earlier, extending the record for the longest average life span into the 19th consecutive year.

The tables show how long a population at different ages is expected to live, on the assumption that factors causing death remain unchanged. The average length of life refers to life expectancy at birth.

Japanese men also set a new record. Their average life expectancy was an average 78.36 years in 2003, up 0.04 year.

Both Japanese men and women have expanded their average life expectancies for four straight years.

But worldwide, Japanese men rank third after their counterparts in Iceland, whose life expectancy was 78.7 years between 2001 and 2003, and in Hong Kong, where the average male life span was 78.6 years in 2002.

Behind Japanese women are Hong Kong women, whose life expectancy was an average 84.5 years in 2002, and those in Switzerland, where the average life span stood at 83 for 2001.

Reflecting the fact that a record 23,377 men committed suicide in the reporting year, the figures show the difference between Japanese men and women widened by 0.06 year to mark an all-time high of 6.97 years.

Of female babies born in 2003, 76.3 percent will live until 80, compared with 54.5 percent of male babies.

The report predicts that half of those female babies will live until 88.09 years old, and half of the male babies will live 81.35 years.

The latest report estimates that cancer will be the No. 1 killer of men and women born in 2003, followed by cardiovascular and cerebral diseases. If they overcome these diseases, women would live an average 7.90 years longer and men 8.71 years.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.