An intriguing study from Yale, published this month in the journal ‘Social Science and Medicine’, suggests that reading books will improve our health and help us to live longer.
The Yale researchers studied just over 3,500 adults, aged fifty years and older, over twelve years. They divided this group into people who don’t read, people who read up to three and a half hours per week, and finally, people who read more than this. They made sure these groups didn’t differ on the basis of wealth, gender, race or education. The surprising results found that readers had a “23 month survival advantage” over non-readers. That is, over the twelve year period fewer of them died. Those reading more than three and a half hours per week had a stronger survival advantage than those who read less.
The first truly surprising finding is that a sedentary activity appears to be physically good for us – that’s not a message we hear very often! The second surprising fact about this study was that the healthy benefits applied to people reading books, rather than people reading magazines and newspapers. The researchers suggested that it is all about the benefit we get when we engage our brains in reading, and that reading books promotes a deeper immersion and therefore a greater benefit. So, reading is like a kind of brain food. When we read we see things from different perspectives, we make connections with the content and we enter into other people’s worlds.
The take home message. Read for half an hour a day. It will make your brain fitter and healthier. In the words of Dr Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
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