SEOUL, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The life expectancy gap is widening between North and South Koreans, and South Koreans on average live 12 years longer than people in the North.
Seoul's statistical bureau released data on Sunday that indicated South Korean men on average had a life expectancy of 78.2 years with South Korean women living longer, or an average of 85 years, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.
By contrast, North Korean men had an average life expectancy of 66 years, and North Korean women 72.7 years.
Seoul said the gap could be attributed to North Korea's high infant mortality rate, which stands at 22 people per 1,000, or 7.6 times the South's 2.9 per 1,000.
The National Statistical Office forecast in 40 years North Korea's infant mortality rate would drop to 7.1 per 1,000, but South Korea's rate would also decrease to 0.6 per 1,000 by 2055.
The Korea Herald reported that another South Korean agency, the Korea Foundation for International Healthcare, indicated the most vulnerable social group in the North is pregnant women.
Since 2010, the report stated 81 North Korean women per 100,000 died while giving birth. South Korea's ratio stood at 16, while Japan, China had ratios of 5 and 37, respectively.
In April, Ghulam Isaczai, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for North Korea, had said 2 million children, pregnant women and elderly North Koreans suffer from malnutrition.
Poor nutrition is a major contributing factor to the shorter life expectancy in the North.
In 2013, South Koreans on average consumed 3,056 kilocalories as part of their diet, but in the North that average stood at 2,094 kilocalories.
That number is below the Food and Agriculture Organization's recommended daily allowance of 2,500 kilocalories, and well below the world average of 2,870 kilocalories.