Japan keeps top spot for life expectancy: WHO report
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Posted 5/14/11 , edited 5/14/11

Japan continued to tie San Marino as the country with the highest life expectancy in 2009, at 83 years, a World Health Organization report showed Friday.

‘‘Among countries of a significant size, Japan has been at the top for some time,’’ Colin Mathers, coordinator at the WHO’s department of mortality and burden of diseases, told reporters after releasing the 2011 World Health Statistics. Australia, at 82, followed Japan and San Marino.

Japanese women had the world’s highest average life expectancy, at 86, while Japanese men tied in second place with Australia, Israel, Iceland and Switzerland at 80, behind San Marino at 82.

But certain habits among the Japanese population, such as the high prevalence of smoking and a more Western diet, could put Japan’s lead at risk, according to the report.

‘‘Unless the Japanese control their smoking epidemic, they will likely be overtaken by Australia,’’ he said, without specifying a timeline.

A clear majority of countries saw their life expectancy rise between 2000 and 2009. Iraq, however, saw its average life expectancy fall from 68 to 66 because of the ongoing conflict in the country, and South Africa from 56 to 54 because of the AIDS epidemic, Mathers said.

World life expectancy stood at 71 for women and 66 for men in 2009, up from 68 and 64, respectively, in 2000, the report said.

The WHO report also showed that the number of medical doctors stood at 20.6 per 10,000 people in Japan during 2000-2010, far short of the more than 30 per 10,000 in most European countries. The number of doctors came to 26.7 in the United States.

The figures are based on data compiled by countries and WHO estimates.

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