If you read a lot, you likely already feel pretty good about yourself. Research suggests that getting stuck into a good book keeps your brain sharp, makes you more empathetic, and is the most effective form of stress-relief.
And now, a new study suggests that book lovers could have the ultimate edge. That’s right: reading could actually help us live longer.
The research, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, suggests that people who read books have a “survival advantage” over those who don’t read at all.
Scientists examined the link between reading and living longer by looking at the reading patterns of over 3,500 people aged 50 and older. They discovered that, on average, book readers lived for almost two years longer than people who didn’t read at all.
Participants in the long-term study were separated into groups: those who read for 3.5 hours or more a week, those who read for up to 3.5 hours a week, and those who never picked up a book.
After trawling through the data and adjusting for other factors which could affect lifespan (such as age, sex, race and education), the researchers found that, up to 12 years later, 33% of the non-readers had died. In contrast, just 27% of book readers had passed away.
The length of time that people spent reading also seemed to make a difference. People who read up to 3.5 hours a week were 17% less likely to die – and people who read even more than that were 23% less likely.
If you prefer flicking through a magazine or casting your eye over a newspaper to getting stuck into a lengthy novel, you may still live longer than if you didn’t read at all. However, the study’s authors tell the Guardian that book readers lived the longest of all.
“We uncovered that this effect is likely because books engage the reader’s mind more – providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the lifespan,” says Avni Bavishi, who co-authored the research.
While the research doesn’t establish a definite link between reading and staving off the Grim Reaper, it does add to the considerable pile of evidence suggesting that reading – as well as being a jolly nice way to pass the time – is actively good for you. Read on, bookworms.