Survival of the Readest

Book readers enjoy longer, healthier lives. The results of a study 

“suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.

“While most sedentary behaviors are well-established risk factors for mortality in older individuals […] previous studies of a behavior which is often sedentary, reading, have had mixed outcomes. That is, some found that reading reduces the risk of mortality […] whereas others found that it has no effect […] However, previous studies often combined different types of reading material and have not compared the health benefits of reading-material type; also, the mechanism for the possible protective effect was not identified. We speculated that books engage readers’ minds more than newspapers and magazines, leading to cognitive benefits that drive the effect of reading on longevity. In the following study, we were able to build on previous studies by examining the potential survival advantage of books. We predicted that the survival advantage for reading books would be greater than the survival advantage of reading newspapers and magazines.

“Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage. First, it promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented […] Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books […] Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival […] Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process […]

“The current study hypothesized that book reading provides a survival advantage, and that this advantage is mediated by cognitive engagement. To determine if the advantage is specific to the immersive nature of book reading, we also examined whether there is a survival advantage to reading periodicals (i.e., newspapers and magazines). Cognitive engagement might also occur while reading thought-provoking periodicals, however this engagement is more likely to occur when reading books due to the tendency of book authors to present themes, characters and topics in greater length and depth. Accordingly, we hypothesized that the survival advantage would be stronger when reading books compared to periodicals.”

From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5105607/#R3

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