The average life expectancy of Japanese women slipped 0.05 year in 2010 to 86.39 years, the first decline in five years, but remained the highest in the world, the welfare ministry said Wednesday.
"Last summer's intense heat wave probably took a toll on many physically fragile seniors," an official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.
Heat stroke-related deaths reached an all-time high of 1,718, with those aged 65 and above accounting for 80 percent of the total. Deaths among the elderly from heart disease and pneumonia also increased — especially last summer — compared with a year earlier, decreasing women's life expectancy, according to the ministry.
Japanese men's life expectancy, however, hit a new high for the fifth straight year at 79.64 years, although the annual increase was just 0.05 year, down from 0.3 in 2009, the ministry said.
Worldwide, the longevity of Japanese women remained the highest for the 26th year running. Women in Hong Kong ranked second with a life expectancy of 85.9 years, followed by French women at 84.8 years.
Japanese men, meanwhile, moved up the global rankings from fifth in 2009 to fourth last year. Men in Hong Kong came top with a life expectancy of 80.0 years, while Swiss men placed second at 79.8 years and Israeli men were third at 79.7 years.