Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Quick reactions 'long life link'

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Quick reaction times are being linked to longer lives

People with quick reactions are likely to live longer than those less quick off the mark, a study suggests.

The joint Edinburgh University and Medical Research Council team looked at the response rates of more than 7,400 people, the journal Intelligence said.

Researchers found those with the slowest reactions were 2.6 times more likely to die prematurely.

They said quick reactions may be a sign of intelligence, which in turn was linked to healthier lifestyles.

Reaction times were taken using a computer programme during the 1980s along with range of other factors including alcohol intake, smoking habits, blood pressure and weight. The average age of those studied was 46.

People with greater intelligence tend to have been better educated and worked in jobs where resources and workplaces practices are better
Dr Geoff Der, report co-author

The participants were then followed up 20 years later by which point nearly 1,300 had died.

Only smoking, which made an early death three times more likely, was reported to be a greater indicator.

Dr Geoff Der, one of the authors of the report, said: "Research has shown that there is a correlation between reaction times and intelligence.

"People with greater intelligence tend to have been better educated and worked in jobs where resources and workplaces practices are better.

"They also look after their health better in regards to smoking, exercise and eating."

Researchers also said the implications could go back to birth with quicker reactions being a marker for a healthy body.

Dr Der added: "There is tentative evidence which suggests the body is just better wired.

"In all probability, it is probably a combination of all of these reasons."

Evidence

Professor Chris Drinkwater, a public health expert from the University of Northumbria, said: "There is robust evidence to suggest educational achievement is linked to health outcomes.

"It seems to be to do with health literacy in that people are more likely to be aware of what constitutes a risk to health and willing to act on it.

"By that we mean both what is good for you, such as healthy eating, and also the early signs of health problems."

But experts were less sure of the link between reaction times and intelligence.

Ash Ranpura, a neuroscientist at University College London, said: "There is evidence of a moderate correlation between how long it takes you to process information and intelligence. So these are very interesting findings."

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