A Yale University study has found a simple way to live longer: Read books for 30 minutes a day.
Not magazines or newspapers. Books.1
The researchers analyzed the reading habits of 5,635 adults 50 or older. They divided them into three groups:
- Those who didn’t read books at all
- Those who read books up to 3 ½ hours a week
- Those who read books more than 3 ½ hours a week
After 12 years, they checked the lifespans of the subjects. The verdict? A little reading was linked to longer life. And more reading was even better.
Those who read up to 3 ½ hours a week were 17% less likely to have died than non-readers. People who read more than 3 ½ hours were 23% less likely to have died.2
The results remained the same after researchers adjusted the numbers for other longevity factors such as race, education, state of health, wealth, marital status, and depression. The study was published recently in the journal Social Science and Medicine.3
What if you prefer reading magazines or newspapers instead of books?
Interestingly, only book reading was linked to greater longevity. Researchers don’t know exactly why this is so. But they believe it may be because books are often more mentally challenging than periodicals.
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Why Book Readers Live Longer
Avni Bavishi is a professor in Yale’s Department of Public Health. She is coauthor of the study. “Books engage the reader’s mind more, providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing lifespan,” she said.
Researchers say they believe reading books exercises the brain in the same way that physical activity exercises the body. And there is a valuable social aspect, too.
The researchers suggested that reading books increases feelings of empathy for the book’s characters similar to the empathy we feel for friends. Previous studies have shown that social relationships with friends and family extend life.4
The next step? Researchers plan to examine whether reading fiction or non-fiction is more helpful to longevity.
Previous studies have found that book reading boosts health in other ways:
- Stress relief: UK researchers at the University of Sussex found that the stress levels of book readers dropped by 68% after only six minutes.
- Alzheimer’s prevention: Researchers at Rush University in Chicago found that book reading helps stave off dementia.5
So enjoy reading a good book every day. It will make the final chapter of your life longer and healthier.
In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch