Slow Reaction Time Can be Deadly

Having a slow reaction time can be fatal: a new study shows that people who have that in midlife increase their risk of death 15 years later.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers from University College London and the University of Edinburgh looked at statistics from more than 5,000 participants (age 20 to 59). The figures were collected from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) in the US.

At the start of the study in 1990s, participants visited an examination center to get their reaction times measured. The test consisted of pressing a button when they saw an image appear on a computer screen. and had their reaction times measured. The task was very simple – they had to press a button when they saw an image appear on a computer screen.

Investigators followed the subjects over the next 15 years to see who died.

 A total of 378 (7.4%) people in the sample died, but those with slower reaction times were 25% more likely to have died (from any cause) compared to those with average reaction times. This remained the case after the researchers had accounted for the participants' age, sex, ethnic group, socio-economic background and lifestyle factors into account.

Lead researcher Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, from the UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said: "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…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."

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