Americans aren’t known for their reading skills.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Literacy in 2013 found “32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read,” the Huffington Post reported at the time.
But according to a new study by researchers at Yale University, non-readers might want to take note: Reading books may contribute to a longer life.
The study, which endeavored to determine whether or not book readers have “a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials,” concluded bookies enjoyed a longer lifespan throughout a 12-year period.
The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, surveyed over 3,600 adults over the age of 50 based on data obtained from the National Institute on Aging. It separated individuals into three groups: those who didn’t read at all, those who read up to 3.5 hours per week, and those who read more than 3.5 hours per week.
They found that individuals who read books — whether or not they read more or less than 3.5 hours per week — received a correlated health benefit. As the Washington Post summarized, “those who read more than 3.5 hours weekly were 23 percent less likely to die during that 12-year period. Those who read up to 3.5 hours — an average of a half-hour a day — were 17 percent less likely.”
Book readers were found to live, on average, two years longer than their non-book-reading counterparts. Researchers also found “as little as 30 minutes a day was still beneficial in terms of survival,” the Guardian reported. It is important to remember correlation does not equal causation, though the researchers did account for variables including income, health, and education level.
Avni Bavishi, who co-authored the study, also noted “reading books provided a greater benefit than reading newspapers or magazines.”
He explained this is “likely because books engage the reader’s mind more—providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the lifespan,” Smithsonian Magazine reported.
The findings should come as good news to those in India, Thailand, and China, who are ranked the most voracious readers in the world. The United States comes in 23rd.
A Pew survey conducted last year found young people between the ages of 18 and 29 read at a higher rate than older adults. However, the number of total Americans who read at least one book per year dropped from 79% to 72% between 2012 and 2015.
Considering reading is associated with many benefits, including increased brain activity, memory, and mental health, the added potential bonus of two extra years of life is all the more reason to pick up a book.
* * *