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Psychosom Med. 2006 Jan-Feb;68(1):17-24.

Cognition and all-cause mortality across the entire adult age range: health and lifestyle survey.

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Department of Psychology, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.



To investigate the association of reaction time and brief measures of memory and spatial ability with all-cause mortality.


Participants were from the UK Health and Lifestyle Survey (HALS), a national sample survey of adults in England, Scotland, and Wales. In 1984/1985, data on lifestyle factors, socioeconomic status, and health were collected for 9,003 people. Cognitive data were collected for 7,414 individuals. All-cause mortality was investigated over 19 years of follow-up in relation to simple and choice reaction time, performance on a short-term verbal declarative memory test, and on a test of visual-spatial reasoning.


Slower and more variable simple and choice reaction times were significantly related to increased risk of all-cause mortality over 19 years of follow-up. The increased risk of all-cause mortality was partly attenuated after adjustments for socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and health status. A novel finding was the existence of an effect of reaction time on all-cause mortality in young adults. Poorer verbal memory ability was also significantly related to an increased risk of dying in young adults independently of reaction time score.


Slower and more variable reaction time was related to higher mortality risk in younger as well as older participants. Among younger adults, higher memory ability was also associated with lower risk of dying. The cognition-mortality relationship may be explained in part by the brain's efficiency of information processing and memory performance.

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