Skip to main content


By August 30, 2016Culture, Longevity

Jerry: “What is this obsession people have with books?”

More than a few classic “Seinfeld” episodes centered on books: the library cop, Kramer’s coffee table book, George’s flagged bathroom book (“If it wasn’t for the toilet there’d be no books”), among them. Maybe this new research will help Jerry understand people’s obsession with them.

“People who read books for 30 minutes a day lived longer than those who did not read,” a Yale University research study found. Published in the September 2016 edition of the journal Social Science & Medicine, the new study tracked respondents who read 3.5 hours or more per week, up to 3.5 hours per week and those who don’t read at all. In a 12-year period, factoring in controls for gender, race and education, the researchers discovered the more voracious readers (the 3.5 hours plus per week cohort) were 23 percent less likely to die; and the less than 3.5 hours cohort were 17 percent less likely to die. Overall, during follow-up, 33 percent of non-readers died, compared to 27 percent of readers.

Elaine, comparing her new friends: “They read.”

Jerry: “I read …”

Elaine: “Books, Jerry. Books.”

To Elaine’s point, the study also emphasized that books offered a stronger link to longer life than periodicals. “We found that reading books provided a greater benefit than reading newspapers or magazines,” wrote the researchers. “We uncovered that this effect is likely because books engage the reader’s mind more – providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the lifespan.

The researchers identified two cognitive processes involved in reading that could create the “survival advantage.” Immersive, deep reading creates a cognitive engagement as readers draw connections, find real-world applications and ask questions. Besides improved vocabulary, reasoning and critical thinking skills, exposure to books “can promote empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that lead to greater survival skills,” the researchers resolved. (Though the genre of books was not specified, based on previous studies the researchers say it is likely most of the people surveyed were reading fiction.)

The researchers concluded, “The benefits of reading books include a longer life” and “more years of reading.”


Leave a Reply