Based on data from over 3,000 participants over the age of 50 the study divided respondents into three groups: those who read no books, those who read up to three and a half hours per week, and those who read more than three and a half hours. After controlling for factors such as age, race, self-reported health, employment and marital status researchers concluded that compared to those who did not read, people who read up to three and a half hours per week were 17 percent less likely to die over a 12 year follow up, and those who read more than three and a half hours per week were 23 percent less likely to die over that span. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.
Senior report author Becca R. Levy, professor of epidemiology at Yale, concluded that, “People who report as little as a half-hour a day of book reading had a significant survival advantage over those who did not read.”
All well and good and this is great news for us writers, the publishing industry and readers in general. However, I think the study missed some very important and relevant variables in determining the real benefits of reading, such as:
- Reading is always enhanced by a glass (or three) of wine and we all know the health benefits of taking a daily dose of your favorite elixir. A bottle of Valpolicella Classico and a good book is a great combination for me.
- Reading, under the right conditions, usually leads to a good nap. Let’s face it, even if the book is an intriguing, titillating barn-burner of a tale you can’t help but nod off at some point for a healthy snooze, especially if you’re sitting in your favorite easy chair, warmed by a fire or the sun streaming in through the window.
- Reading is a great way to ease stress. It helps you focus on a single, intense task - by ignoring everyone around you. This is particularly helpful if you are trapped beside a jaw-jacking moron on an airplane or in some other public place. Cracking open a book or magazine usually nullifies the intrusion. (This is also helpful when your mother-in-law drops in for a surprise visit.)