Yale Study Finds Those Who Read More Books Live Longer

Posted on August 5, 2016

Does reading books make you live longer? The answer is yes, according to a new study by researchers from Yale University. The New York Times reports that the scientists evaluated data received from a larger health study which had included the reading habits of the participants. All participants were over 50. The 3,535 people were divided into three groups: people that spent more than three and a half hours a week reading, people that spent up to three and a half hours reading and those that did not read books at all.

The scientists controlled for age, race, marital status, employment, depression, health, income, gender and college education. After those factors were stripped out, the results revealed over the next 12 years revealed that those who read books more than three and a half hours a week were 23% less likely to die. Participants who read books up to three and one half hours a week were 17% less likely to die than the non- readers. On average, readers lived two years longer than non-readers.

So what about people who read magazines or newspapers? There was a similar correlation, but it was weaker than the one with books. Senior researcher Dr. Becca R. Levy who is a professor of epidemiology at the Yale University School of Public Health explained, "People who report as little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read. And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables."

It's a fascinating study. Of course correlation does not imply causation. Clearly people who are able to read books for hours each week have stronger cognitive skills, which may be related to overall health. The article is called "A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading With Longevity" and was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine. You can read an abstract here.

A CNN report did not include reading in its report on "5 healthy habits" that can help you live a decade longer. The five things are "eating healthy, exercising, keeping a healthy BMI, not smoking and not drinking too much." Add reading to this list - so it becomes six healthy habits - and maybe it will give you an even longer life. It will certainly be a more enjoyable one if you read.

Updated: 6-23-19