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Having Slow Reaction Time Boosts Risk of Early Death

Update Date: Jan 30, 2014 11:10 AM EST

People with slow reaction time may die young, according to a new study.

Researchers found that having a slow reaction time in midlife increases risk of dying 15 years later.

The latest study involved data from more than 5,000 participants between the ages of 20 and 59 who were part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) in the United States.

Participants had their reaction times measured at the start of the study by completing a task where they pressed a button when they saw an image appear on a computer screen. The participants were then followed over the next 15 years to document who had died and who survived.

The study revealed that a total of 7.4 percent of participants died. However, those with slower reaction times were 25 percent more likely to have died compared to those with average reaction times.

Researchers said the findings held true even after accounting for participants' age, sex, ethnic group, socio-economic background and lifestyle factors into account.

Researchers noted that those with slower reaction times were more likely to have died from any cause. However, there was no correlation between reaction time and death from cancer or respiratory problems.

"Reaction time is thought to reflect a basic aspect of the central nervous system and speed of information processing is considered a basic cognitive ability (mental skill). Our research shows that a simple test of reaction time in adulthood can predict survival, independently of age, sex, ethnic group and socio-economic background,"

lead researcher Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson of University College London said in a news release.

"Reaction time may indicate how well our central nervous and other systems in the body are working. People who are consistently slow to respond to new information may go on to experience problems that increase their risk of early death. In the future, we may be able to use reaction times to monitor health and survival. For now, a healthy lifestyle is the best thing people can do in order to live longer," Hagger-Johnson added.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE

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