Most of us know that staying active, following a healthy diet and refraining from harmful substances can help us live a little longer. But it turns out there’s something else we can add to that longevity list. According to a study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, people who regularly read books add years to their lives.
A research team led by Avni Bavishi from the Yale University School of Public Health conducted a 12-year-long study to determine the effects of regular reading on longevity. They divided 3,635 people into three groups. The first group of people didn’t read at all, the second group read for 3.5 hours per week or less and the third group read for more than 3.5 hours each week.
The study showed that those who read more than 3.5 hours per week may live, on average, two years longer than those who don’t read at all. Researchers found that reading enhances cognitive skills, which plays a role in longevity.
Before you get excited about the time you spend reading the newspaper or flipping through magazines each week, it turns out that book reading may be the only form of reading that is able to prolong your life.
The study’s authors noted, “Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines. These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.”
The participants who read less then 3.5 hours per week were still 17% less likely to die than those who did not read at all. The research team explained, “Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage. 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.”
If your goal is to keep your brain active, past studies have shown that there are plenty of ways to increase your cognitive performance, including crossword puzzles, brain-teasers and card games. But according to this study, you might want to include a few books in there as well.