Average Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy of the Japanese male, as of 2012, was 79.94 years and that of the female was 86.41. The combined average life expectancy for both Japanese males and females is the highest in the world. The expectancy rates grew rapidly in Japan from the 30’s to the 60’s and continue to grow steadily today. They were only 46.92 for males and 46.63 for females in 1935. It is said, however, the expectancy rates may stop growing in the near future because of the changing diets of young Japanese, which contain more fat and salt. Spain, France and Switzerland are other countries with high life expectancy rates. The average life expectancy rate of people in the U.S. was 76 for men and 81 for women in 2011.

Main Causes of Death

The main cause of death in Japan is cancer, which accounts for 30% of all deaths. This is followed by heart disease, which accounts for 15%, pneumonia and cerebral vessel diseases (such as stroke), each of which account for 10% of all deaths. Though all three of them used to be called adult diseases, now they are called lifestyle diseases because they’re caused by habits such as smoking or drinking. The most frequent types of cancer for Japanese are lung cancer for men and colorectal cancer for women.

Medical Facilities and Doctors

The total number of medical facilities in Japan is 160,000 with about 17 million beds. There was a doctor shortage until the 70’s but today there are 219 doctors per 100,000 people, which is considered more than sufficient.

Hay Fever

It is said that 40% of Japanese living in metropolitan areas suffer from kafunsho, a kind of hay fever caused by the pollen from cedar or hinoki cypress trees. From March to May, many Japanese wear white masks made of gauze when they go out. Some even wear glasses and hats to protect themselves from pollen, which causes various uncomfortable symptoms such as a runny nose, headaches, and itchy eyes. They say that more people have started suffering from kafunsho in the last 20 years because the cedars and hinoki cypress planted in the mountains around Japan after the war have been neglected, are overgrown, and create more pollen. When floating pollen in the air mixes with dust and exhaust from automobiles, it causes kafunsho.


Like kafunsho, allergies, in particular atopy, have become a very common serious problem in Japan over the last 10 to 20 years. Many Japanese children suffer from allergic symptoms such as skin disorders and asthma. In some serious cases, children cannot even sleep at night because of severe itching. It is still difficult to cure these allergies because doctors cannot often define their causes, which can be a mixture of air pollution, house dust, food, etc.