Tsunami Deaths Caused Japanese Women To Fall Behind In Lifespan Rankings

chieko chiba, tsunami, earthquake, destruction, devastation, distraught, depressed, bad news, horrible, kesennuma miyagi japan, best of year 2011, gettyChieko Chiba walks through the rubble after going to see her destroyed home March 16, 2011 in Kesennuma, Miyagi province, Japan. The 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck offshore on March 11 at 2:46pm local time, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 metres which engulfed large parts of north-eastern Japan. As the death toll continues to rise, the country is also struggling to contain a potential nuclear meltdown after the nuclear plant was seriously damaged from the quake. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Photo: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese women lost their longevity crown last year after 26 years at the top of world life expectancy rankings, the government said on Thursday, blaming the 2011 earthquake and tsunami for the drop.The health and labour ministry said the disaster, which left nearly 20,000 dead or missing, was mainly behind a decline in average lifespan by 0.4 years to 85.90 years. That put Japanese women behind Hong Kong, in the top spot with 86.7 years.

The ministry said a rise in the number of suicides last year also contributed to the decline.

For men, average life expectancy fell 0.11 years to 79.44, leaving them tied for 7th place with Italians. Switzerland led male longevity rankings with average expectancy of 80.2 years.

As a result of advances in health care and falling birth rates, Japan, the world’s 10th most populous nation, has become one of the world’s oldest and fastest ageing societies.

The trend has been particularly pronounced in the northeast, where, even before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, scarcity of jobs had been driving young people away. Many of the victims of the disaster were elderly residents who stayed behind.

(Reporting by Teppei Kasai; Writing by Tomasz Janowski; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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