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Book readers live a few years longer

If you read a book for half an hour a day you'll live several years longer than if you don't do so, epidemiologists at Yale University School of Public Health discovered. Reading newspapers and magazines also has a life-extending effect, but not as marked.

The researchers followed a group of 3635 people aged over fifty from 2001 until 2012. They knew about the study participants' reading behaviour and looked at whether they could correlate this with their chance of dying.

The participants who read books for half an hour or longer every day were less likely to die than the participants who did not do so. The risk of death was twenty percent lower among the book readers than the non-book readers.

The observed reduction of mortality risk corresponds with an extension of life expectancy of almost two years, the researchers said in an interview with The Guardian. [ 8 August 2016]

Book readers live a few years longer

The researchers observed the positive effect of book reading in both men and women, and in people with low and high education levels, which led them to believe that it's not a coincidence.

The researchers were not able to work out how book reading extends life expectancy. What they were able to confirm was that reading books has a positive effect on mental capacity, but that this was not the route through which book reading contributed to extended life expectancy.

The researchers speculated that reading books "can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival".

Reading newspapers and magazines also extended life expectancy, but by less.

"This study found that those who read books for an average of 30 min per day - say, a chapter a day showed a survival advantage, compared to those who did not read books", the researchers summarised. "The robustness of our findings suggests that reading books may not only introduce some interesting ideas and characters, it may also give more years of reading."

Soc Sci Med. 2016 Sep;164:44-8.

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