I would like to send Yale medical researchers my heartfelt thanks for giving me the best news I’ve heard in a very long time.
Book readers live longer.
A recently released 12-year Yale University study found reading books “promotes a significant survival advantage.”
Here’s the lowdown, according to The Washington Post, “The study looked at 3,635 subjects, all older than 50, whom the researchers divided into three groups: those who didn’t read books, those who read up to 3.5 hours a week and those who read more than 3.5 hours a week.
“The findings were remarkable: Book readers survived almost two years longer than those who didn’t crack open a book.
“Accounting for variables such as education level, income and health status, the study found that 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.”
I was elated when I read this. What happens if I read a book for more than a half-hour each day, which I do? I’m golden! I’ve been walking around on air ever since.
My less bibliophilic friends, upon hearing me spout the longitudinal study’s findings, have tried to talk me down from my cloud nine. “You’ll live longer because you don’t put yourself out there in harm’s way,” said one, who I don’t think has ventured into a bookstore or library in a decade because she’s too busy “adventuring.” “You’re sitting all cozy on your couch in your sweatpants instead of hang gliding or mountain climbing.” Oh, yeah? Well, I read about those things.
And, said a more practical friend, “All that time you spend reading is time you’re not in a car, so your chances of dying in a car crash go down and that must influence the results.” Sorry, I read on road trips, and I most certainly read on airplanes.
They can’t dissuade me. For years, even though I’ve been known to have a few less-than-wholesome habits, I’ve known that my reading addiction, albeit sedentary and anti-social, was healthy.
“Well, of course it is,” my husband said. “It’s good for your brain, your memory.”
No! I do crossword puzzles to help ward off my aging brain’s decline. (Of course I do. I read that it helps.) This is not about improving my old age, it’s about lengthening it.
I am taking this study at its word and with its oh-so-sweet vindication. I read a lot, ergo I’ll live a lot longer than if I didn’t.
I should note that the study focused only on book readers, so if you read three newspapers or magazines a day, sorry, I wouldn’t count on seeing 100 candles on your birthday cake. Just think if it did factor in, though. I work for four newspapers, I read newspaper copy all day and then go home and crack open a book for an hour or two. I’d really be setting a cake ablaze if that were the case.
I won’t even get into ways you can make reading even healthier, such as enjoying a glass of red wine and/or nibbling on some dark chocolate all while petting a purring cat as you sink into the pages. All those things contribute to mental and physical health, or so I’ve read.
Reading makes you live longer, which gives you more time to read. So don’t stress about that precarious tower of unread books beside your bed or your ever-lengthening To Read list. Less stress makes you live longer, too! See? It’s all good.
Speaking of that To Read list, add this: “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles (Viking 2011). It’s fabulous, set in the social scene of pre-World War II New York City. Check it out and tell me if I’m wrong. Towles has a new one out, “A Gentleman in Moscow (Viking),” that is excellent, too,
Amy Canfield loves to read. She has been a book editor, a book reviewer for publications nationwide and is an editor at Current Publishing. She lives in South Portland.