Study: People who do this live nearly 2 years longer than those who don’t
Many studies have praised the numerous health benefits of reading; however, a more recent study has gone even further. The findings, from Yale University’s School of Public Health, show that those who frequently read books are more than 20 percent more likely to live longer than those who don’t.
Co-author Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale, and her team studied the data of over 3,500 adult men and women who participated in the Health and Retirement Study—a nationally representative sample of Americans 50 and older.
Participants self-reported their reading habits and were followed by researchers for an average of 12 years, during which time their survival was monitored.
They found that subjects who read books up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12-year period, whereas subjects who read for more than three and a half hours a week were 23 percent less likely to die.
“Book reading was found to be most common among females, individuals who were college-educated and those with a higher income,” the authors said.
Even when the participants’ age, sex, wealth, education, health conditions and marital status were accounted for, the association remained.
Magazine and newspaper reading was proven popular among adults, and while that activity showed an increase in survival as well, it was not to the same effect as book reading.
Although the research was unable to identify what exactly provided the survival advantage, Levy and her team looked to past studies that indicated cognitive benefits, which show reading boosts brain cell connectivity. In their words, “Reading books works through a cognitive mediator.”
Largely, adults who read books survived nearly two years longer than those who did not read.
One program in the Chicagoland area is helping reinforce this reading mentality in the minds of children.
Reach Out and Read, a program made possible at Advocate through philanthropic funding, makes books a routine part of pediatric primary care by allowing trained physicians or nurses to distribute age, cultural and developmentally appropriate books to children from six months to five years old during their well child visits.
“Imagine a caregiver holding a child and reading to them without the child knowing the caregiver is building early literacy skills and preparing successful readers for school,” says Anita Berry CNP, APN, Director of Healthy Steps Program and Reach Out and Read at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “Reach Out and Read focuses on children growing up in poverty, however, all children need access to books from a very early age. Initially, they will explore them orally by putting them in their mouth, later learning to turn pages and eventually filling in words they remember from their favorite stories.”
The reading program has been shown to increase literacy awareness for young patients and their families. Research shows that when the physician gives a “prescription for reading” to the family, it increases the likelihood that books will be utilized in the home. Parents read to their children more often, children learn to love books and hopefully down the line, the kids-turned-adults live longer.
About the Author
Kelsey Sopchyk, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She earned her BA in journalism and mass communications from the University of Iowa. In her spare time, you can find Kelsey working on puzzles, trying new sushi restaurants and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.