A Japanese woman in 1905. Even if she enjoyed contemporary life expectancy, she wouldn't have made it to today. via Wikimedia Commons
The world press is singing their praises: No one born last year is expected to live longer than those lucky ladies who were born in Japan. Health ministry data showed girls born in Japan in 2012 could expect to live on average to 86.41 years old up from 85.90 years in 2011. Icelandic men top the male list by expecting to live 80.8 years.
Hong Kong's women briefly held the crown last year, as the effects of the tsunami in Japan hit the statistics. But here a year later, Japanese women once again are on tops the list of 48 countries and Hong Kong. But they aren’t the undisputed longest livers.
See, breaking up “life expectancy” by country is tricky—oddly enough we can agree on how to measure life expectancy, but we can’t agree on what constitutes a country.
This particular survey includes Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” of China, but it doesn’t include the other Chinese SAR, Macau. According to the CIA World Factbook, women in Macau are estimated to have a life expectancy of 87.56 years.
To be fair Macau only has 583,000 people, and Hong Kong has over 7 million, but both have historical reasons to be counted separately from the Chinese mainland. Still if we exclude those SARs (allowing Spanish, French and Swiss women to move up behind the Japanese), the independent country of Singapore still edges the Japanese. But Singapore is topped by an even smaller, wealthier and longer living country: mighty little Monaco.
Smaller than a single square mile, and with a population of only 30,500, Monaco’s inclusion on any list of countries is always a little suspect. It’s like using Aspen as a model for how American cities should be run. Still, the Principality of Monaco is its own country, and women born there are estimated to live for an astounding 93.71 years.
Of course, one thing all of these countries and semi-autonomous regions share is that there just isn’t that many people being born in any of them. Monaco has the lowest birth rate on the World Fact Book, followed by Hong Kong, and Singapore and Japan round out the top five.
Which of course leads to one inescapable conclusion: babies are the anything-but-silent killer.