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Education

Want to live longer? Science says to read more books.

People who read more than 3.5 hours a week were found to live 23 months longer than those who didn’t read at all.

reading, books and longevity, readers live longer

A woman enjoys a book while sitting by a stream.

There are few joys greater than curling up and reading a good book. The best books are the ones that are so engrossing you forget that you’re reading. Then, when you take a break, you look and see you’ve blown through 50 pages without realizing it.

However, there are a lot of us who wish that we read more often, but we watch TV instead because it takes less mental energy. But the benefits of reading seem to be far greater.

Reading keeps our brains sharper as we age and, according to research, people who read live longer than those who don’t.

A 2016 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine asked 3,635 participants who were over 50 years old about their reading habits and monitored them over a 12-year period. The researchers split the participants into three categories: those who don’t read at all, those who read less than 3.5 hours a week and those who read more than 3.5 hours a week.

The results were astonishing.


via Pixabay

People who read more than 3.5 hours a week were found to live 23 months longer than those who didn’t read at all.

“Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 4-month survival advantage,” at the age when 20% of their peers passed away. “Book readers also experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers.”

Those who read less than 3.5 hours a week were 17% less likely to die than those who never crack open a book.

“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,” the senior author, Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale, said according to The New York Times. “And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.”

The researchers also noted that reading books will help you live longer than sticking to newspapers and magazines.

“Further, our analyses demonstrated that any level of book reading gave a significantly stronger survival advantage than reading periodicals,” the researchers wrote. “This is a novel finding, as previous studies did not compare types of reading material; it indicates that book reading rather than reading, in general, is driving a survival advantage.”

Why is it that those who read live longer than those who don’t?

via Pixabay

The researchers at Yale speculate that there are two reasons why reading books has such a positive effect on longevity. The first is that books require "deep reading," or the process of engaging with the book and understanding its internal context. The second is the emotional connection that books help us develop to empathize with characters and their stories.

Together, these two processes help us better understand the world and enhance our survival skills.

The great news about this study is that it shows that all it takes to live a significantly longer life is to read about 30 minutes a day. Plus, not only will you live longer, but you’ll also be happier as well.

Because there are few things that bring greater joy than reading a book and sharing someone else’s thoughts for a while.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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