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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