TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japanese women have held the record for the world's longest life expectancy for 25 years in a row, with an average life span of 86.44 years as of 2009, the government said on Monday, as the country struggles to cope with rising welfare costs in a rapidly aging society.
Life expectancy in Japan rose for the fourth straight year in 2009. Japanese men, on average, had a life expectancy of 79.59 years, the fifth longest in the world, data by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed.
Improvements in the treatment of cardiac disorders, strokes and cancer -- three main causes of death in Japan -- have helped prolong Japan's life expectancy, the ministry said.
The gap between male and female life expectancy slightly widened last year from 2008.
"One of the reasons for that is more, especially young men, committed suicide compared with 2008," a ministry official, who declined to be named, said.
"Men are more exposed to the realities of society and have more things to worry about, particularly at work," the official added.
In 2009, more than 70 percent of 32,845 people who committed suicides were men, according to the National Police Agency.
Japan is one of the world's fastest aging societies.
Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, editing by Miral Fahmy