George R.R. Martin said: “A reader lives a thousand lives before diyng, who doesn’t read lives only one”. But now researchers at Yale University added one detail: people who read regularly not only can live many adventures through books’ pages, but also live longer.
One chapter a day adds months to your life
The research includes data of 3,635 people who took part of a much larger study dedicated to health. The participants answered a questionnaire in which were asked, among other things, what their reading habits were.
Following were organized three groups: those who didn’t read books, those who dedicated an average of three and a half hours a week reading books and those who spent more time reading.
Thus, researchers reached an unexpected result: the great readers tended to live longer than those who didn’t read books. In fact, these people lived an average of two years longer. Who reads an average of 3.5 hours a week was 17% less likely to die during the two decades it has extended the study. Those who spent more time reading were 23% less likely to die.
Is interesting that these results are not directly dependent on factors such as health, employment, gender or marital status. In addition, researchers found that reading newspapers or magazines didn’t have such a beneficial effect on longevity. Books (novels, poetry and essays) were the real culprits of the miracle.
Why people who read more live longer?
Reading is a sedentary activity that certainly doesn’t activate metabolism and is not the best alternative to keep fit. However, it brings huge psychological benefits and has also a positive impact on brain functions, activating some areas and improving the neuronal connectivity. For this reason someone says that a good novel is like a massage for neurons.
To understand why people who read more have a longer life expectancy, we must refer to a study conducted by neuroscientists of the University of Sussex in 2009. Participants undergo several stressful tasks. Right after they were involved in relaxing activities.
This way they found that reading was the activity that mostly reduced stress, of 68%. And the interesting thing was to see that were sufficient only 6 minutes of reading to decrease blood pressure and heart rate. Instead, listening to music and taking a walk turned out to be the least effective activities to relax.
The key lies in the fact that while we read, our mind focuses on reading and forget worries, which is not always the case with other relaxation techniques, because our mind tends to go back on problems. Therefore, reading is a very relaxing activity that can help relieve the stress accumulated during the day. And perhaps, this could be the real secret why people who have the habit of reading live longer.
Now you know, if you want to add years to your life, you have to dedicate at least 15 minutes a day reading a book.
Bavishi, A. et. Al. (2016) A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine; 164: 44-48.
Lewis, D. (2009) Galaxy Stress Research. Mindlab International, Sussex University.