50 Years On: Life Expectancy Falling in Okinawa

Society Lifestyle Culture

Naha, Okinawa Pref., May 18 (Jiji Press)--Okinawa Prefecture is seeing average life expectancy fall among its residents, especially men, with experts putting the blame on a dietary change under the post-World War II U.S. occupation.

After its reversion to Japan from the U.S. rule 50 years ago, on May 15, 1972, Okinawa had stayed high in the prefecture-by-prefecture rankings of average life expectancy, tallied by the health ministry every five years based on national census and other data.

Okinawa had the longest average life expectancy among Japan's 47 prefectures in 1980 both for men and women. But Okinawan men, who retained the top position in 1985, slid to fifth in 1990. After rising back to fourth in 1995, they abruptly fell to 26th in 2000 and have been staying low since then. Men in Okinawa ranked 36th in 2015.

Okinawan women came third in 2010 after maintaining the top spot until 2005, and fell to seventh in 2015.

The health and longevity division of the Okinawa prefectural government attributes the results to obesity and lifestyle-related diseases among Okinawans due to a shift from traditional vegetable-based local cuisine.

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