Japan's women are once again the world's longest-lived in 2012, a year after falling to second place behind Hong Kong, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said in an annual report released Thursday.

The average life span for Japanese women was 86.41 years, up 0.51 from the previous year. Hong Kong women topped the rankings at 86.70 years in 2011, according to a report in the Japan Times.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong men have long outlived Japanese men. Life expectancy for men in the city was 80.6 years in 2012, up from 80.3 in 2011. The figure for Japanese men last year was 79.94 years.

The average life expectancy for both women and men increased for the first time in three years.

However, Icelandic men hold the top spot for the men, with life expectancy at 80.8 years last year.

In 2011, the average life span in Japan declined because of the large number of people who died in the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in the northeast.

The Japanese are notorious for their longevity, which is largely credited to their healthy diet, active lifestyle and well-maintained medical system.

"Generally speaking, the high level of welfare is contributing" to national longevity, the ministry official said.

The health ministry compiled international rankings using data from Japan and 48 other countries plus Hong Kong.