Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

Average life expectancy for Japanese women and men hit a record in 2017 at 87.26 and 81.09 years, respectively, ranking them second and third in world longevity rates, health ministry figures show.

Japanese women’s longevity in 2017 placed second globally for the third straight year after Hong Kong, at 87.66 years, according to the ministry’s statistics of 50 countries and regions.

The ranking for Japanese men dropped to third place in 2017 after Hong Kong, at 81.7, and Switzerland, at 81.5. It ranked second the previous year after Hong Kong.

Compared with a year earlier, Japanese men’s longevity extended by 0.11 year, while women gained 0.13 year, the report released July 20 showed.

The slight rise in longevity rates in Japan in 2017 was attributed to a drop in the three leading causes of death: cancer, heart disease and cerebral vascular disease.

The report by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said that men’s longevity would increase by 6.81 years and women’s by 5.61 years if deaths had not been the result of those diseases.

“The increases reflected public’s growing health awareness and improved lifestyle habits,” a ministry official said of the latest figures. “There is potential for the longevity rates to further extend due to advances in medical care.”