Some hobbies are just better for you than others are. Jogging is better for your heart than Solitaire is, and puzzles will probably improve your mental acuity more than rugby. And when it comes to reading, well, it’s certainly good for your soul, but it can’t improve your lifespan, right? Guess again.
About a quarter of American adults report not having read a book in the past year. That’s bad news because a new study proves that reading can majorly extend your lifespan. It’s not exactly the first of its kind, either. Some earlier reports found that, despite the fact that a sedentary lifestyle carries health risks, reading has no detrimental effect on expected lifespan. Others found that reading actually has a positive effect on the length of your life. But this new study sets itself apart by specifically asking about the effect that books have.
Here’s the most important takeaway: older adults who read books for at least 30 minutes per day live 23 months longer on average than those who don’t read at all. The data comes from Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a biennial study that’s been examining the health of retirees since 1992. They compared people who read books to people who didn’t and found they were different in many more ways than just lifespan.
Book readers, it turns out, tend to be less depressed, more educated, and wealthier than their non-reading counterparts. More of them are female, as well. All of those factors individually have a positive effect on lifespan. There was one surprising correlation: readers were much more likely to be blind or suffer some form of visual impairment.
They won’t say for sure, but the researchers hypothesize that books give the brain the chance to soothe and recharge itself, especially during what they call “deep reading.” That’s when you aren’t just going over the words, but actively engaging with the characters and concepts and thinking hard about the information the book presents you. But that can take a long time. What if you need to dive deep into some heady concepts and you haven’t got all day to do it?
Check out my related post: Why should you exercise?