The average life expectancy in 2015 for Japanese men was highest in Shiga Prefecture, at 81.78 years, a health ministry survey showed Wednesday.
The average life expectancy for women was highest in Nagano Prefecture, at 87.67 years, according to the survey, which has been conducted every five years since 1965 in order to analyze regional disparities in life spans.
Shiga ranked at the top for the first time for either men or women.
“The smoking rate is low in Shiga, and local residents are known for consuming less salt,” a ministry official said.
The lowest figure for both sexes was recorded in the prefecture of Aomori, where men live 78.67 years on average and women 85.93 years. The difference between the highest and lowest average life expectancies across the nation shrank to record lows for both men and women, at 3.11 years and 1.74 years, respectively.
“Differences among prefectures reflect differences in lifestyles and what they eat,” the ministry official said.
In Aomori, the average daily salt intake stands at around 10 grams — surpassing the target amounts set by the ministry for the prevention of lifestyle diseases, which are less than 8 grams for men and 7 grams for women.
“Although the gap is becoming smaller, reality bites,” said an official at the prefectural government, which has been asking local residents to cut down on salt in cooking by using more dashi (soup stock).
Average life expectancy grew in all of the nation’s 47 prefectures, thanks to advances in medical treatment and growing health awareness since the previous survey in 2010.
As health-promotion measures were taken in prefectures with low life expectancies, average figures increased overall, a ministry official said.
The average life expectancy for men increased 1.20 years in Shiga, which had ranked second in the previous survey.
Nagano, which ranked first for men for the fifth time in a row through the previous survey, came second this time, with an average life expectancy of 81.75 years.
Kyoto ranked third at 81.40 years, followed by Nara at 81.36 years and Kanagawa at 81.32 years.
For women, Nagano ranked top for the second time in a row, followed by Okayama at 87.67 years, only 0.002 below the figure for Nagano. Shimane was third at 87.64 years, Shiga came fourth at 87.57 years, and Fukui ranked fifth at 87.54 years.
Aomori came last for the ninth consecutive time for men, and for the fourth straight time for women.
Increases in average life expectancy since the previous survey were highest for men in Nagasaki, at 1.50 years, and for women in Tottori, at 1.19 years.