A person's ability to quickly react to different circumstances might better indicate his or her chances for a longer and healthier life, than their blood pressure, weight or exercise levels, reports a new study by British researchers. According to them, men and women whose responses turned out to be the most sluggish, were more than 2 times as likely to die prematurely.
While this can be attributed, in part, to differences in lifestyles because commonly, the more intelligent people are, the less likely they tend to smoke and suffer from extreme weight, there was still much of the gap that could not be previously explained. In fact, according to the authors, people's reaction times are a measure of their intelligence (IQ), which, in its turn is an indicator of "system integrity" of their bodies, in other words, how well the rest of the body is wired together. "Our results suggest that 'choice' reaction time, a moderately high correlate of intelligence, is an important risk factor for mortality from all causes, including cardio-vascular disease," the researchers said.
The Scottish research appears to be the first to focus on a comparison between people's intelligence and their mortality, comparing the results with known risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption. The findings were based on the study of 7,414 people nationwide for more than a twenty-year period of time.
In the experiment, the reaction times of all the study participants were measured by the means of an electrical device that was fitted with a small screen and 5 numbered buttons. The participants then were asked to press the matching buttons when they saw some number appearing on screen. The time that every volunteer had taken to react was meanwhile recorded and averages worked out.
It was found later that since mid-80s, more than 1,200 people have deceased, and 568 of them from heart related conditions. The experts then compared the reaction times, smoking and drinking habits, weight and other factors of those people who had passed away with those who had survived. The results revealed that people with slow reactions were 2.6 times more likely to die prematurely from any cause. The only factor that was somehow connected with an increased risk of death was smoking - making it over the 3 times more likely.
Traditional indicators such as heart rate, waist circumference, physical activity, drinking habits, body max index (BMI) and blood pressure were found to be less accurate. There had been assumptions that reaction time, as a measure of speed of the cognitive information-processing capacity, may be a marker for the integrity of the human body, the researchers wrote. But the current study shows that slower are the reaction times, and therefore worse capability to process information - better are the chances of physiological malfunctioning, which may in turn be linked to a premature death.
The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Intelligence.
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