Posted on Feb 28, 2017, 11 a.m.
Study determines that reading books may help us live longer by as many as two years, and the more frequently you read, the better.
Despite the recent popularity of the Kindle and other e-readers, sales of printed books are increasing. In 2015, there were 571 million units sold in the United States, compared to 559 million the previous year.1 Reading books is a popular way of relaxing and escaping stressful thoughts, as well as passing the time. Reading can also preserve structural integrity in the brain, as people age. Now, it is believed to have the added benefit of helping us to live longer.
Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale University of Public Health, and her colleagues, analyzed data provided by the Health and Retirement Study (a nationally representative sample of American adults, 50 years of age or older). 3,635 men and women were included in the study, and all self-reported their reading habits. For approximately 12 years, they were followed-up, and their survival was monitored. Those who read books for up to 3.5 hours weekly were 17% less likely to die over the 12 year follow-up, compared to those who did not read books. Those who read for over 3.5 hours per week were 23% less likely to die. Over the course of the 12 years, the adults who read books survived almost 2 years longer than the adults who did not read.
Females were found to be most likely to read books, along with those who were college-educated, and those who had a higher income. Those who reported reading magazines and newspapers also displayed increased survival over those who did not read at all, though the difference was less significant than with the book reading. After accounting for various factors such as age, wealth, sex, self-reported health, education, and marital status, the study results remained consistent.
The mechanisms by which book reading may increase longevity were not identified, however, the team suggests that it may be a result of the cognitive benefits. They concluded that "These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them." Levy and her team published their findings in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
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3. The journal Social Science & Medicine