Adults with slow reaction times may have an increased risk of early death, a
new study suggests.
British researchers looked at more than 5 000 Americans, aged 20 to 59, who
had their reaction times measured using a simple test in which they had to
press a button when they saw an image appear on a computer screen.
The participants were then followed for 15 years. During the follow-up
period, 7.4% of the participants died. Those with slower reaction times were
25% more likely to die from any cause than those with average reaction times.
This remained true after the researchers accounted for age, sex, ethnicity,
socioeconomic background and lifestyle factors, according to the study, which
was published in the current issue of the journal PLoS One.
Aspect of central nervous system
There was no link between reaction time and risk of death from cancer
or lung problems. And the study showed only an association between slow
reaction times and early death; it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
"Reaction time is thought to reflect a basic aspect of the central
nervous system, and speed of information processing is considered a basic
[mental skill]," lead researcher Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, of the
department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in
the United Kingdom, said in a university news release. "Our research shows
that a simple test of reaction time in adulthood can predict survival."
"Reaction time may indicate how well our central nervous and other
systems in the body are working," Hagger-Johnson said. "People who
are consistently slow to respond to new information may go on to experience
problems that increase their risk of early death."
"In future, we may be able to use reaction times to monitor health
and survival," he said. "For now, a
healthy lifestyle is the best thing people can do in order to live
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