Book up for a longer life: readers die later, study finds

From The Guardian:

Flaubert had it that “the one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy”. It turns out that reading doesn’t only help us to tolerate existence, but actually prolongs it, after a new study found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day lived longer than those who didn’t read at all.

The study, which is published in the September issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, 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.

. . . .

The paper also specifically links the reading of books, rather than periodicals, 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”.

“Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books,” they write. Second, books “can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival”, they say.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Valerie for the tip.

14 thoughts on “Book up for a longer life: readers die later, study finds”

  1. Hmmm, did the study include the difference between those that ‘passed on’ before finishing their bucket list of e/books they planned to read vs those that didn’t look for the next e/book before they finished it one/s they had? (Some of us might be so bad/evil that we’ll live forever if we don’t step off the curb with our eyes on the page/screen and get hit by the bus …)

  2. Maybe those who read don’t engage in risky behaviors that lead to an (earlier) demise?

    Or those who are engaging in riskier behaviors don’t have time to read?

    I know–it’s hard to believe–but there are some people who read and DON’T get a mental image, a movie if you will, playing in their heads. I guess those of us who have that ability will read more than those who don’t.

    So those of us with imaginations can stay safely at home, while those who don’t are out there doing things that are fun and exciting and risky?

    Someone should do a study on that.

  3. The paper also specifically links the reading of books, rather than periodicals, to a longer life.

    My aged mother was letting her magazine subscriptions lapse as she “wasn’t going to live long enough to enjoy them.”

    I renewed them for her. I’m betting she’s too stingy to pass on while she has undelivered issues paid for.

  4. Well, that pretty much cements my plan to live forever. I read a lot more than 3.5 hours a week, I’m never going to run out of reading material, and I’m just too danged stubborn to die.

    I get the movie running in my head with some books, others I’m struggling to get into them. I’m pretty sure it’s the writing, and not me, either way.

  5. Are readers less likely to have drug addictions? I wonder… More likely to have healthy social connections?

  6. Who can let themselves die before the end of that series they’ve been reading for years has been published?

      • I wonder how much his readers contributed to those statistics. Hasn’t he been writing the series since the 90s? There could be people that have lived an extra 20+ years because of him. So yeah, life extension research should be focused on Martin specifically, to keep him alive as long as possible.

  7. Ooooh! I’m already contemplating how to word the claim for health benefits in my blurbs…

    Time to hit the local “health” store for some ideas. (Better check, though, whether the FDA has intruded themselves into the book business.)

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