Reaction time reflects how efficient the central nervous system is and how quickly a person is able to process information. A new study shows that people with slow reaction times in midlife are at higher risk for early death.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE,researchers from University College London and the University of Edinburgh analyzed data from more than 5,000 people, aged 20 to 59, which was part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the United States. The participants’ reaction times were evaluated initially in the 1990s.
In the reaction time test, participants only had to press a button as soon as they saw an image appear on a computer screen. 15 years later, the participants were followed up to see who survived and who died.
A total of 378 (7.4%) participants died during 15 years of follow-up (104 cardiovascular deaths; 84 cancer deaths). They were 25 percent more likely to die from any cause. The participants who died were also more likely to be male, have a lower socioeconomic position, physically inactive, smoked cigarettes, and drank alcohol more heavily.
Lead researcher Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson highlighted that a simple test of reaction time in adulthood can predict survival independently of age, sex and other factors.
"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," he said. "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."