Recently, remarkable findings were published in Social Science & Health showing that book readers lived almost two years longer than non-book readers. A team of public health researchers from Yale University looked at data for 3,635 Americans over age 50, whom the researchers divided into three groups: those who didn’t read books, those who read up to 3.5 hours a week and those who read more than 3.5 hours a week. Accounting for variables such as age, sex, race, education, income, marital status, health and depression, the study found that those who read more than 3.5 hours weekly were 23 percent less likely to die during 12-year study period. Those who read up to 3.5 hours — an average of a half-hour a day — were 17 percent less likely.
Overall, the researchers calculated that book reading was associated with an extra 23 months of survival.
In other words, just like a healthy diet and exercise, books appear to promote a “significant survival advantage,” the authors concluded. Reading magazines or newspapers had a much weaker effect.
The researchers found that people who read books showed stronger cognitive abilities, like recall and counting backwards—skills that, combined with reading, showed a positive relationship with living longer. No study is perfect and an important caveat of this one is that it only shows correlation, and not causation.
Yet, this evidence is a fantastic motivator to savor reading on a regular basis. And if we read standing up, does it mean that our survival advantage doubles?