Hong Kong has topped the life expectancy table for both men and women - despite its foul air and high stress levels. The men reached the landmark last year, and have been joined by women, who overtook the Japanese for the first time. The Department of Health attributed the success to a drastic cut in infant mortality rates. Based on provisional figures released by the Census and Statistics Department, life expectancy at birth for Hong Kong men last year was 79.5 years, and for women 85.6 years. This compares with 78.8 and 84.6 in 2005, and is a significant advance on 1996, when life expectancy was 76.7 for men and 82.7 for women. Japan announced its latest figures this month, showing that life expectancy for women was 85.5 years in 2005. Women in Spain come in third, at 83.8 years. Among men, Hong Kong is just ahead of Iceland (78.9 years), Switzerland (78.6) and Japan (78.56). The commissioner for census and statistics, Fung Hing-wang, said the longevity of Hongkongers might be attributable to medical advancement and easy, affordable access to medical services. The Department of Health said: 'The main reason for the increase in the life expectancy at birth is the very low infant mortality rate, ie. deaths under age one in Hong Kong.' This was because of the easy accessibility and affordability of antenatal and obstetric care, adequate control of infectious diseases and good infant nutrition, the department said. Other contributing factors include advances in medical technology and an effective health care system. Japanese women had been touted as the planet's longest-living group for 21 straight years, but experts there said changing eating patterns - from a traditional fish and rice-based diet to fast food - might be changing that. Mr Fung said the census department did not compile a combined average life expectancy at birth because males and females had different mortality patterns. 'For example, males have a higher mortality in lung cancer, whereas breast cancer predominantly occurs with females. Hence, it is considered appropriate to present expectation of life at birth separately for males and females.'