GENEVA — Japanese women retained the top spot in average life expectancy in 2012, ahead of women in Spain, Switzerland and Singapore. Japanese men, however, tied with Swedish men for eighth place, according to a World Health Organization report.

Japan has ranked high on the list for more than 20 years, but more countries are expected to catch up with Japan, where the smoking rate is high, especially among men.

According to WHO’s World Health Statistics 2014, the main causes of premature death worldwide in 2012 were coronary heart disease; lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia; and stroke.

Japanese women’s average life expectancy at birth increased to 87, up from 86 in the 2011 report, maintaining first place. Japanese men’s average life expectancy also increased a year, from 79 to 80.

Icelander men had the longest life expectancy — 81.2 years, followed by Swiss and Australian men at 80.7 and 80.5, respectively. Japanese men were also overtaken by those in Israel, Singapore, New Zealand and Italy in this year’s report.

The global life expectancy at birth was 68.1 years for men and 72.7 for women in 2012.

At the other end of the spectrum, the life expectancy of both men and women was still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries, including such war-torn nations as the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


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