If you have a fast reaction time, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re probably good at dodgeball, racing, and thumb warsÃ¢â‚¬”and, according to a new study out of the United Kingdom, you might live longer, too.
For the study, which was published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers took a look at data from 5,134 adults collected over 15 years as part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants were between the ages of 20 and 59 at the start of the study, and reaction time numbers came courtesy of a computer programÃ¢â‚¬”whenever participants saw a Ã¢â‚¬Å“0Ã¢â‚¬Â on a screen, they had to press a button ASAP, and each person took the test 50 times.
A total of 378 participants (7.4 percent) died during those 15 years. When the researchers ran the numbers and adjusted for age, sex, and ethnic minority status, the people who had slower and more variable reaction times on the test had a higher likelihood of both all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality. (But there was no correlation when it came to deaths due to cancer.) When the researchers adjusted for socio-economic status, health behaviors, and cardiovascular disease risk, as well, the association wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as strong, but it was still there.
MORE: 11 Weird Things That Destroy Your Immunity
The authors explain in the study that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not sure whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s behind this correlation. One possibility, they write: A slower or more variable reaction time might be the result of a declining central nervous system, and if the central nervous system is declining, that might be linked to other bodily systems declining, too.
Unfortunately, just like your genetics, your reaction time is something you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do much about. But whether youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the dodgeball queen or you get hit five seconds into a game every time, you can work to keep yourself healthy by exercising, eating well, and staying happy.
MORE: 5 Simple and Easy Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy