A recent study of more than 3,500 participants over age 50 found that reading books is positively associated with longevity. The participants were tracked for 12 years and questioned about their reading habits. The respondents were divided into three categories: (1) those who read books 3.5 hours a week or more, (2) those who read less than 3.5 hours a week and (3) those who didn’t read books at all.
The researchers found the following:
- Book reading provides a survival advantage. Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 23-month survival advantage. In general, book readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers.
- Books are more advantageous for survival than newspapers/magazines.
- Reading books is protective even after accounting for gender, wealth, education, or health.
The more that respondents read, the longer they lived, but “as little as 30 minutes a day was still beneficial in terms of survival”.
Why does reading books confer longevity? The researchers theorize that the slow, immersive process of deep reading that books engender as well as the 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” is what leads to the survival advantage due to positive effects on our brains.
While the genre of the book was not asked, there is some evidence that fiction was more commonly read than non-fiction by the participants .
Looking for something good to read? Here’s a link to our firm’s book club(s) list: https://www.stlouistrust.com/st-louis-trust-company-book-club-list/
Here’s a cool chart with some Greek symbols from the study: