Reading books can prolong your life

I  have always loved reading.

Like so many others I cannot recall when I learned to read but became quite proficient at an early age. I spent many happy hours in wonderful libraries in Hackney, London, where I grew up.

Reading is an essential part of my life. There is literally not one day that goes by when I do not read. Since I retired five years ago I have had the time to spend reading whatever I want. I have decided that I want to keep learning, since I believe that it is of prime importance to keep the brain active as one ages.

I do not believe that watching television or videos has the same mental impact that reading print has. I tend to read both actual books and electronic books. I appreciate that there is a real difference between these two but it is the interaction of your mind with the printed word that is still the same.

Yesterday  I read a report about a study by researchers at Yale University as to whether it can be scientifically proven that  reading improves your longevity.

In this study the researchers looked at the lifestyles of people aged 65+. In particular they compared the activities of passively watching television and how , in reading, there are a number of  cognitive activities involved. Reading the text, decoding it, comprehending the meaning and, in the case of novels, the extensive use of the imagination, in recreating scenes in one’s head and being able to follow dialogue and adjust for accent.

The problem with television is that it is all done for you. You do not need to do much more than watch and comprehend. In some popular television there is very little comprehension required. You may need to think about the quality of someone’s singing or close your eyes quickly to one of the many scenes of excessive violence.

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The Yale study collected data to see if the 65+ groups who watched T. V. but did little reading, lived longer (it was a long-term  study) than those who read more than they watched T.V. and specifically, who read books (I.e. not magazines and newspapers).

The report stated:

Overall, during follow-up, 33% of non-book readers died, compared to 27% of book readers, write the academics Avni Bavishi, Martin Slade and Becca Levy from the Yale University School of Public Health, in their paper A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading With Longevity.

“When readers were compared to non-readers at 80% mortality (the time it takes 20% of a group to die), non-book readers lived 85 months (7.08 years), whereas book readers lived 108 months (9.00 years) after baseline,” write the researchers. “Thus, reading books provided a 23-month survival advantage.”

Bavishi said that the more that respondents read, the longer they lived, but that “as little as 30 minutes a day was still beneficial in terms of survival”

Of course there are always exceptions to the scientific proof. You will no doubt find a 100 year old who prides him or herself on hardly reading throughout their long life. But they are the exception. Overall, it is pleasing for those of us who love books to see that reading a book will give us more time on the planet and as the article concludes, more time to read more books!

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