Reading Makes You Live Longer
My parents used to read to me quite a bit when I was younger. As I got a little older, I found that I really enjoyed reading books.
Now, as an adult, I definitely don’t read as much as I used to. At least not fictional types of stories. Today it’s more articles and papers, so not quite the same kind of reading.
Avid readers may have gotten the title of “geek” or “nerd” growing up, but now they have a pretty great reason to rejoice.
An interesting new study says that books are more than just entertainment. In fact, its findings suggest that reading makes you live longer than those who don’t read at all.
The Book of Life
The study – published in the journal Social Science and Medicine – reports that people who read an average of 30 minutes a day lived an average of 2 years longer than people who didn’t.
An extra 2 years is pretty significant health find.
The research team looked at the reading habits of over 3,600 people who were 50 years of age or older. They then followed them over the next 12 years to observe mortality rates.
You may be skeptical. Besides, other studies have shown how education, marital status, income, gender, and health conditions can significantly affect the death rate of individuals. Could any of those variables be behind the extra lifespan?
The lead author from the study, Becca Levy, says this:
“People who report as little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read.
And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.”
Reading Material Matters
Here are a few other interesting notes from the study.
For one, there was the type of reading. Does reading a newspaper differ from reading Harry Potter?
Reading is reading, isn’t it?
Not according to the scientists. They found that the type of reading affects the longevity of the results. In short, what you read can make you live longer.
People who read books lived longer than those who read magazines or newspapers. And those who read mostly magazines or newspapers lived longer than those who didn’t read much at all.
Finally, those who read up to 3.5 hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12 year followup.
But it gets better. Those who read more than 3.5 hours lived even longer. They were 23 percent less likely to die during the following years than non-readers.
Keeping Your Mind Engaged
The scientists weren’t exactly sure what caused the decrease in mortality, but they suspect that there’s some type of cognitive workout happening behind the scenes.
This would fit nicely with other research that finds mentally stimulating jobs and hobbies are able to increase a person’s cognitive reserve. Which, in the long run, helps people maintain mental skills, delay dementia, stay independent, and lower risk of death.
Scientists know that cognitive engagement is vital for keeping your mind sharp. And now, it seems that reading can be added to the list of activities that keep your mind active and functioning like a well oiled machine.