There are many ways to improve the chance of you living to a ripe old age, and some are fairly obvious. Refraining from smoking and drinking, doing moderate-intensity exercise, and eating a relatively healthy diet are some of the more obvious ones, but a new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine also concludes that those who regularly read books add years to their lives too.
In fact, in a long-term study of 3,635 people, they found that those that indulged in a bit of novel perusing – specifically, for more than 3.5 hours per week – live on average two years longer than non-readers. This appeared to be linked to cognitive enhancement rather than any other associated factor, including age, sex, education, race, health, wealth, marital status, and depressive tendencies.
During the 12-year-long study, the research team – led by Avni Bavishi from the Yale University School of Public Health – divided their subjects into three groups: those who didn’t read at all, those who read for 3.5 hours per week or less, and those who read for more than 3.5 hours per week.
Even in the second group, these occasional bookworms were 17 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who did not. Before you claim that all those magazine articles you read are good enough, however, it’s worth noting that this effect can only be linked to books, and not other forms of reading material.
“Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines,” the authors note in their study, concluding that “these findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.”
“Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage,” the team added. “First, it promotes ‘deep reading,’” an immersive process that encourages readers to form connections to other parts of the material and the world around them. “Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival.”
It seems that the complex, interwoven nature of many books cannot be matched, at present, by any other type of text-based information. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that books are the only way to engage your brain in intricate, engaging ways – multiple studies across the years have shown that computer games are also excellent ways to boost intelligence and learning capabilities, both of which will undoubtedly give you an advantage in life.
Still, at this point, it seems that books rule the roost. The novelist Stephen King once said that “books are a uniquely portable magic,” and it appears that he was right in more ways than one.