According to a new study published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine, reading just 30 minutes a day can help you live a longer.
Researchers at Yale University School of Public Health conducted a study on the health and reading habits of 3635 individuals aged over 50. Three distinct groups were formed: those who did not read at all, those who read up to 3.5 hours per week, and those who read more than 3.5 hours per week.
Age, race, depression, self-reported health, employment, and marital status were taken into account.
What were the results?
The individuals who read up to 3.5 hours per week were found to be 17% less likely to die over the 12-year follow-up than those who did not read at all, and those who read for more than 3.5 hours per week were found to be 23% less likely to die.
Becca R. Levy, professor of epidemiology at Yale, said: “People who report as little as half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read and the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.”
Interestingly, the study found that readers were mostly college-educated females from higher income groups, whether it was books or newspapers that were being read.
Why does reading boost longevity?
According to the authors of the study, reading offers as much of a significant health advantage as a healthy diet and exercise.
While research is still ongoing to reveal the exact reason for this, the study has already demonstrated that reading boosts cognitive connectivity and empathy, which protects individuals from age-related deterioration and related illnesses.
Reading helps to broaden the mind, increase intelligence, and to learn how to better relate to others.
Masters student, Avni Bavishi, from the Yale School of Public Health, says: “Deep reading does have health benefits, inducing a state of relaxation similar to meditation. Such states are known to produce cellular changes that can promote longevity.”
Does any reading count?
The study showed a strong link between longevity and reading books but also included reading newspapers and magazines.
Bavishi told CBS news: “We found that book reading provides more of a survival advantage than reading newspapers or magazines. We believe this is because books offer stronger cognitive engagement because they’re longer and there are more characters and plots to follow, which means more connections to make.”
According to the World Culture Index, India, Thailand, and China are the countries with the best reading habits, with the USA coming in at the 23rd position behind Egypt, Australia, Turkey, and Germany.
The good news is that young American adults are starting to read more, with 80% reading at least one book per year. That beats the 68% of adults between the age of 50-64 who read yearly.
According to the Nielsen Book-Scan, book buying is also increasing annually, with at least 652 million books sold in the United States in 2015. This includes print and electronic books.