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A new study to be published in the September issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine has found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day lived longer than those who didn’t read at all.
The study looked at the reading patterns of 3,635 people who were 50 or older. On average, book readers were found to live for almost two years longer than non-readers.
Respondents were separated into those who read for 3.5 hours or more a week, those who read for up to 3.5 hours a week, and those who didn’t read at all, controlling for factors such as gender, race and education. The researchers discovered that up to 12 years on, those who read for more than 3.5 hours a week were 23% less likely to die, while those who read for up to 3.5 hours a week were 17% less likely to die.
On follow up 33% of non-book readers died, compared to 27% of book readers, write the academics Avni Bavishi, Martin Slade and Becca Levy from the Yale University School of Public Health, in their paper A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading With Longevity.
Bavishi said that the more that respondents read, the longer they lived, but that “as little as 30 minutes a day was still beneficial in terms of survival”.
The paper specifically links the reading of books, rather than magazines, to a longer life. “We found that reading books provided a greater benefit than reading newspapers or magazines. We uncovered that this effect is likely because books engage the reader’s mind more – providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the lifespan,” Bavishi said.
In the paper, the academics write that there are two cognitive processes involved in reading books that could create a “survival advantage”. First, reading books promote the “slow, immersive process” of “deep reading”, a cognitive engagement that “occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented”.
The paper however failed to confirm which genre of books the respondents were reading, so we do not know whether erotic fiction, romance or crime fiction helps keep the heart tick longer. Future analysis could look at “whether there are additional health benefits from readers nonfiction vs fiction, as well as various genres, have different effects”.