We all know — in a general sort of way — that reading more is a Good Thing. But can it actually be linked to longevity?
This recent article reports on a 2016 study at the Yale School of Public Health that involved 3,635 participants divided into three groups:
- Those who read books up to 3.5 hours a week
- Those read books more than 3.5 hours
- Those who didn’t read books at all
The results were dramatic. Those who read up to 3.5 hours a week were 17% less likely to die over the 12-year follow-up period of the study. Those who read more than 3.5 hours a week were 23% less likely to die.
While there wasn’t a direct, one-to-one biological proof that reading by itself promoted a longer lifespan, there is a direct correlation between reading and other factors or influences that do promote longevity. For example, a 2013 study that carried out brain scans while participants were reading a novel over a course of time, showed that the reading increased brain connectivity, gradually helped develop larger vocabularies and increased the ability of readers to understand others’ feelings. Brain activity and emotional connection to others are two hallmarks of longevity.
Reading promotes engagement and can reduce the sense of loneliness and isolation, which we know presents risks to longevity.
Reading can also promote direct social engagement, through discuss of books with others. The article describes the strong positive effects of a book club in a retirement community in Alberta, and of course there are numerous other examples, from community events sponsored by local libraries to celebrity book clubs and reading lists, to online book forums that can bring together thousands of people from around the world.
Read any good books lately?