The ritual of sitting in a comfy chair with a good book is an age-old pastime, and many older adults will agree that this is the ideal way to spend a lazy Sunday. However, seniors don’t read as much as they used to – about 7 in 10 people who have read a book in the past year are in the 50-64 age group. Just like eating healthy foods and exercising, reading promotes healthy longevity too, and so should be embraced as one gets older!
The National Institute on Aging sponsored a longitudinal study of more than 3,500 people over the age of 50, with the goal of determining if reading had an effect on longevity. The participants were divided into three groups based on self-reported reading habits: the first group included people who didn’t read books, the second included those who read books for up to three and a half hours per week and the third group consisted of people who read more than three and a half hours per week.
Participants in the study were asked follow-up questions for twelve years, and it was found that people who read books for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to have passed away. More noteworthy, it was found that people who read more than three and a half hours a week reduced the likelihood of death by 23 percent. These results remained even after taking overall current health, income, marital status, sex, education and other factors into consideration.
While survival over non-readers was higher for those who read newspapers and magazines more than three and a half hours a week, the results were more pronounced for those who chose to read books.
While it isn’t stated in the report why reading may lengthen an individual’s life, the research team attributes it to increased mental engagement. Previous reports have pointed out that as people age, participating in activities and events that are mentally challenging helps promote cognitive and physical health while slowing the onset and progression of cognitive decline.
No other leisure pastime can transport us to new worlds, inspire us to learn something new, or encourage an active imagination as the experience of reading a good book – and with long-term health benefits! So, look up your local library’s hours and plan a trip to check out some books today!