Bookworms live longer

Book readers’ lives were two years longer than nonreaders’.

Gregory Nemec

Gregory Nemec

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The next time you talk to a clinician about how you’re taking care of your health, you might want to include a discussion of your
reading habits.

Although sedentary activities are not usually regarded as promoting health, a recent study by Yale researchers showed a significant link between book reading and longevity. (The work was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.) Researchers examined data from 3,635 individuals who have been involved over several years in a nationwide health study of people over age 50. Based on their answers to the question “How many hours did you spend last week reading books?” respondents were divided into three groups: those who read no books, those who read books for up to three and a half hours, and those who read books for more than three and a half hours.

The study showed a marked advantage for book readers. Over 12 years of follow-up, those who read books for up to three and a half hours per week were 17 percent less likely to die than those who did not read books, while those who read most were 23 percent less likely. Book readers averaged a two-year longer life span than those who did not read at all.

“Older individuals, regardless of gender, health status, wealth, or education, showed the survival advantage of reading books,” says Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology. The survival advantage, she adds, persisted after adjustment for baseline cognition—meaning that it was the benefits of reading, rather than the readers’ previous cognitive capacity, that helped lengthen life spans. “More questions need to be answered,” Levy says. “But we know that reading books involves two cognitive processes that could confer a survival advantage: the slow, deep immersion needed to connect to content; and promotion of empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence.”

1 comment

  • Adele Feierstein
    Adele Feierstein, 9:24am December 02 2016 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Glad to hear the news. I am 86 yrs. old and read constantly every day. Well, I guess I have to get back to my next read.

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