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Pick Up a Book for a Longer Life

A certain amount of reading every day offers a ‘survival advantage'

By Heidi Raschke

Oh, dear. Another reason to feel guilty for not cracking my summer reading list. At first, I was thrilled when I glanced at the headline of a recent story in The Guardian about a new study in the journal Social Science & Medicine which found that readers live longer. Then I actually read it.

It turns out all those hours I spend reading my Facebook feed won’t extend my life. It has to be books. The study, The Guardian reports, “looked at the reading patterns of 3,635 people who were 50 or older. On average, book readers were found to live for almost two years longer than non-readers.”

How Much Reading, How Often

Reading books for just 30 minutes a day provided what researchers  Avni Bavishi, Martin Slade and Becca Levy from the Yale University School of Public Health called “a 23-month survival advantage.”

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Periodicals. Meh.

Participants in the study spent far more time reading periodicals than books — just 3.92 hours per week reading books versus 6.10 hours per week reading periodicals.

“We had seen some mixed effects in previous literature that seemed to indicate that there may be a survival advantage to general reading,” Bavishi said. “However, we were impressed with the magnitude of the difference of effect between reading books and reading newspapers/magazines.”

The researchers’ recommendation: Switch to books. A chapter a day keeps the doctor away.

Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy. Read More
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