ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, adults who have slow reaction times have a higher risk of an early death.

The researchers studied reaction time to determine how well the central nervous system is working, as well as basic mental skills, such as how quickly a person can process information.

Over 5,000 people who participated in the study had to take a reaction time test. The participants sat in front of a computer monitor and were asked to press a button as soon as they saw an image appear.

The participants were between the ages of 20 to 59 and researchers followed them from the early 1990s, when they took the reaction time test, for the next 15 years to record which participants had died and which survived.

Out of the people who participated in the study, 7.4 percent had died within that 15 year period.

The researchers found that the participants who logged slower reaction times were 25 percent more likely to have died.  They also took into account the participants’ socioeconomic background, age, sex, lifestyle, and what ethnic groups participants belonged to.

“The reasons for the link between slow reaction time and death are not yet known,” Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson, lead author on the study, told Medical News Today. “One theory is that slow reaction time might reflect deterioration of other bodily systems, such as the brain and nervous system. Perhaps people who are slower to react are also more unhealthy, or forget to do things which might keep them healthy.”

Dr. Hagger-Johnson also thinks that people with slower reaction time may not be good at avoiding hazards.

“If this is true there might be some unknown common cause of both slow reaction time and physical illness,” Dr. Hagger-Johnson added. “We are keeping an open mind until more research has been conducted on mechanisms that might explain this result.”

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.


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