Health experts say life expectancy is a good measure of the overall health and well-being of an area. If that’s true, our state is slipping.

Life expectancy is a measure of how long babies born in a specific year will live taking into account current death trends. Mathematically, the largest driving factor in life expectancy isn’t the longevity of the country’s oldest citizens, but rather the number of people who die young, according to the experts.

In Missouri, the average life expectancy continues to decline and a new state report reveals the main drivers of that trend are deaths of young people as a result of suicides, opioid overdoses and homicides.

According to data compiled by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, our state’s average life expectancy dropped 0.1 last year to 77.0 years. That rate has been declining since 2012 when Missouri’s life expectancy peaked at 77.8 years.

A drop of one-tenth seems insignificant, but when you consider that life expectancy rates are steadily increasing around the world, you get a clearer picture of our state’s sliding quality of life. Moreover, the report says Missouri’s life expectancy rate is 1 ½ years shorter than the national average.

Of course, the United States, which many of us proudly consider the greatest country in the world, isn’t even in the top 25 of nations in terms of life expectancy. Citizens in the country with the longest life expectancy, Monaco, live some 89 years on average. The United States usually ranks somewhere in the top 40’s in terms of life expectancy — way behind most European countries.

Missouri’s average life expectancy is a whopping 10 years lower than Monaco’s rate. That probably doesn’t mean much to most of us. But here is something that should. Average life expectancy rates are influenced by a range of public health factors – things like access to health care, safety, crime and prevalence of disease.

The report makes clear Missouri’s problem — the death rate for residents ages 15 to 44 has increased nearly 30 percent since 2012. That’s what is responsible for Missouri’s overall decline in life expectancy. Those lives are increasingly being terminated by suicides, opioid overdoses and homicides.

The report said firearms were to blame in a growing number of homicides and suicides. While there was only a small increase in firearm deaths last year, the annual number of deaths has increased by more than 50 percent in the past decade.

That’s something to ponder.