• Kyodo

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Japanese women remained No. 1 in average life expectancy in 2012, outpacing their counterparts in Spain, Switzerland and Singapore, while the men ranked eighth, tying Sweden, according to the World Health Organization.

Japan has ranked high on the list for more than 20 years, but other countries expect to catch up because of its high smoking rate, especially among men.

The top causes of premature death worldwide in 2012 were heart disease, lower respiratory infections and stroke, the WHO said in World Health Statistics 2014, released Thursday.

The average life expectancy at birth rose to 87 from 86 for Japan’s women, and to 80 from 79 for Japanese men.

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