Book Readers Live Longer Lives, According to New Study from Yale University

Urval av de böcker som har vunnit Nordiska rådets litteraturpris under de 50 år som priset funnits

Image by Johannes Jansson, via Wikimedia Commons

What are the keys to longevity? If you ask Dan Buettner, the author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, he’d list nine key factors. They range from slow down and don’t stress out, to have a clear purpose in life, to eat mainly plant based foods and put family first. Nowhere on his list, however, does he suggest sitting down and reading good books.

And yet a new study by researchers at Yale University’s School of Public Health indicates that people who read books (but not so much magazines and newspapers) live two years longer, on average, than those who don’t read at all. Becca R. Levy, a professor of epidemiology at Yale, is quoted in The New York Times as saying, “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.” “And the survival advantage remained after adjusting for wealth, education, cognitive ability and many other variables.” Precisely how book reading contributes to increased longevity is not spelled out. You can read the abstract for the new study here.

via NYTimes

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Comments (4)
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  • Victor Fleischer says:

    Good to know! The more I read the time I will have to read. Very good news!
    Thank you.

    V. Fleischer

  • Jo-Ann Mapson says:

    Totally loved this article and will send it to my students.

  • Michael Rosemann says:

    Although I like the result of this study a lot, and I intuitively strongly believe in their conclusion, from a methodological point of view it suffers from the same shortcommings as many other retrospective social studies. The studies usually analyse questionaires they receive from randomly picked individuals. No doubt, analysing 3, 635 peoples health status and their reading behaviour is a vast amount of work and an association found between the reading habits and health status will be significantly and reproducible.

    But what remains to be shown is the causality. I.e. can I increase my life expectancy (or this of my children) if I or if we force ourself to read more books ? And this is not clear, and the Yale study also has no answer to this. In epidemiology there is this well-known phenomenon of “reverse causation”, which in the current studies could also underly the reported association. If one assume that any genetic or epigenetic factor (or a combination of those) improves a persons health status in general (including mental health, but also neuro-sensory fitness such as eye vision), this will independently lead to an incraesed longevity but at the same time also to a higher prefenrence to enrich ones life by reading good books. So these two outcomes of a questionaire, health status/life expectancy and frequency of reading books will automaticly be linked, cause they are influenced strongly by the same underlying inherent factors (genetic composition and epigenetic praegung). So they are clearly linked to each other, but not causing each other.

    The only solid prove of a causation of book reading and longevity would be a so-called randomized study (as they are state-of-the-art in clinical trials to test the therapeutic effect of new drug or method). Here, a large number of volunteers have to be recruited, and they assigned to a control and a test group randomly. And these two groups have to follow a defined protocol, whether they liek it or not. The control group should not read books (even if some group members are real book freaks), whereas the members of the test group all should read a defined minimal numbers of books (per month) whether they like books or not. And this study has to be followed over years or decades, of course. One could then do a simple non-parametric test (like Man-Whitney or Wilcoxon) for the attained age at death and could easily found if an intentional increase in book reading helps to extend life span.

    Michael (

  • Michael LaRocca says:

    Have I mentioned that my books are on sale?

    (I’m kidding. They’re not.)

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