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Japanese Women Reclaim Top Life Expectancy Title

Update Date: Jul 25, 2013 05:27 PM EDT

Japanese women reclaimed their place as their world's longest-lived in 2012 as their life expectancy recovered from the drop caused by the 2011 tsunami, according to officials.

The Japanese are known for living long lives, party because of their healthy diet, active lifestyle and exceptional medical system.

Health ministry data released on Thursday revealed that girls born in Japan in 2012 could expect to live to 86.41, up from 85.90 in 2011, according to AFP.  Researchers had compiled international rankings using data from Japan and 48 other countries including Hong Kong.

The average life expectancy in Japan dropped two years ago when thousands of lives were lost in the 2011 tsunami. In 2011, Japanese women lost the longest-lived title for the first time in more than 25 years, with women in Hong Kong claiming the top place.

"Death rates rose in 2011 due to the disaster but the life expectancy picked up again with that factor coming off," a health ministry official said, according to AFP.

The ministry said that "the high level of welfare" may be partly responsible for the national longevity.

Last year, Hong Kong women came in second with an average lifespan of 86.3 years followed by Spain, France and Switzerland.

The life expectancy of men in Japan also rose to a record 79.94 years from 79.44 in 2011, making Japanese men the fifth longest-lived worldwide.

According to the latest health ministry statistics, the longest-lived men are Icelanders, with an average lifespan of 80.8.  Men in Hong Kong are the second longest-lived and those in Switzerland and Israel are the third and fourth longest-lived.

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