The average life expectancy of Japanese women has reached 81 years, longest expected life span in the world, Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry announced.

A ministry survey released Monday showed the life expectancy of Japanese women had climbed from 80.93 years in 1987 to 81.39 years this year.For Japanese men, projected life spans have reached 75.61 years, up 0.38 years from a year ago, also apparently leading the world, the survey said.

The average life expectancy for Japanese in 1936 was 46.92 years for men and 49.63 years for women. In 1947, Japanese life spans reached 50.06 years for men and 53.96 years for women.

Every year since the end of World War II, nearly a year has been added to the longevity of both Japanese men and women, the figures showed.

A ministry spokesman said it was certain that Japan leads the world in life expectancy for women, but said the claim for men could not be confirmed because of outdated data on male longevity from other countries.

Iceland ranked second in projected life spans for women at 80.38 years, which was followed by 80.07 in the Netherlands and 73.50 years in Sweden, according to the survey.

The ministry report said when cures are found for cancer, strokes and heart disease - the three leading causes of Japanese deaths - the average life spans of men will be extended by 9.84 years and 9 years for women.