For almost 30 years straight, Japanese women were hailed as the longest living humans on the planet and all it took was one terrible tsunami and another year of suicides to break that streak. "The health and labor 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," writes Reuters' Tomasz Janowski, adding "That put Japanese women behind Hong Kong, in the top spot with 86.7 years." Officials also cited the rise of suicides as a factor impacting life expectancy. A report from The Associated Press in 2011 noted that that the number of suicides in Japan topped 30,000 for the 13th straight year and that one third of the suicides were committed by people in their mid-20s. And according to The AP Thursday, the "report noted that if deaths related to the disaster were not included, the life expectancies would be higher for both men, at 79.70 years, and women, at 86.24." But even taking that higher number into account (it's still hard to fathom a natural disaster affecting life expectancy that much), Japanese women would have still lost to their longer-living (by a few months) counterparts in Hong Kong.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.