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The average life expectancy of Japanese men and women reached record highs in 2020, a health ministry survey has shown.

The average life expectancy for men rose by 0.22 year from the previous year to 81.64 years, marking a record high for the ninth consecutive year, while the life expectancy for women increased by 0.30 year to 87.74 years, posting a record for the eighth straight year.

According to the ministry, it is believed that the life expectancy for men and women would have been 0.03 and 0.02 year higher, respectively, were it not for the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have heard that some countries have seen their average life expectancy drop, but we have seen a comparatively small impact,” a ministry official said.

Japanese women posted the highest life expectancy in the world, while Japanese men were in second place after Switzerland.

The latest survey did not include Hong Kong, which if included would have put Japanese women and men in the same ranks as the previous year, at second and third, respectively.

Average life expectancy is the number of years a baby born in a given year can expect to live, assuming that the death rate for each year group stays unchanged.

In Japan, the proportion of people born in 2020 who are expected to reach 75 stood at 76.1% for men and 88.4% for women. The share expected to reach 90 was 28.4% for men and 52.5% for women. The ministry also said that 11.1% of men and 28.3% of women are expected to reach 95. All of the figures were record highs.

Analysis of what could cause newborns in 2020 to die in the future put cancer at the top of the list for both sexes, at 28.24% for men and 20.14% for women. In a scenario assuming that no one dies from cancer, the average life span could be extended by 3.57 years for men and 2.87 years for women, the ministry said.

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