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The average lifespan of Israeli men is among the highest in developed countries, according to an annual Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel report released yesterday. Israeli women, meanwhile, rank close to the middle of the pack compared to their international counterparts.

Men in only five countries have longer lifespans than Israeli males, who live an average of 78 years: Iceland (79.2), Japan (78.6), Switzerland (78.6), Sweden (78.4), and Australia (78.1).

Even though Israeli women place lower than Israeli men, they live longer, with an average lifespan of 82.4 years.

The average lifespan is one measure for defining quality of life and differentiating between developed and undeveloped countries.

According to the report, the mortality rate in cities in the center of the country as well as Jerusalem is 7 to 8 percent lower than the average national rate.

The most prevalent causes of death here are heart and blood vessel diseases, which were responsible for 30 percent of all deaths in 2003, and cancer, at 25 percent.

"The quality and high level" of doctors and nurses "are not an insignificant source of the success of the Israeli health system," the report said.

However, although the number of doctors in Israel is similar to the rate in other industrial countries - 3.4 per 1,000 people - not all residents equally benefit from such prevalence. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have more doctors than the national average - 4.2 and 3.9 per 1,000, respectively - while northern communities have only 2.3 doctors per 1,000 residents.

Residents of the periphery also have access to fewer hospital beds and an inferior medical infrastructure compared to those in the country's center, the report said.

While the number of nurses has increased in many developed countries since the 1990s, there has been no similar increase in Israel. Israel's 5:1,000 nurse-to-resident ratio places it at the bottom of the list of developed countries, along with Poland, Portugal, Greece and Turkey. Ireland, Norway and the Netherlands have three times as many nurses working in their health-care systems.