Saturday, September 3, 2016

Turn the Page to a Longer Life

     A new study from researchers at Yale University has found that reading books can help you live longer -- up to two years longer.

     The study called "A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading with Longevity" used data from a broader health and retirement survey that asked 3,635 participants, all over age 50, about their reading habits.

     Researchers divided the subjects into three categories: those who didn't read, those who read up to 3 1/2 hours per week, and those who read more than 3 1/2 a week. They then followed each of the groups for 12 years.

     Those in the second group, who read up to 3 1/2 hours per week -- or 30 minutes a day -- were 17 percent less likely to die within the 12 years compared to people who did not read. People who read more than 3 1/2 hours per week were 23 percent less likely to die.

      The study controlled for other factors such as marital status, education, gender, and it focused on books, not magazines or newspapers, and so did not make any claims about reading other materials. However, it did suggest that by exposing readers to new people and places, and engaging their minds more intensely, reading novels in particular offers more health benefits than skimming the news or reading online.

     Previous studies have also linked health benefits with reading fiction. A 2008 report from the Mayo Clinic concluded that reading books, especially novels, can help stave off dementia by as much as 50 percent. And in a 2013 study from Emory University, researchers found measurable improvement in people's brain function after they read fiction. The researchers theorized that by transporting the reader into another person's world, and putting you in someone else's shoes, reading fiction can increase empathy, expand your imaginative powers and perhaps decrease stress.

     With all that in mind, I can recommend three brand new novels:

     News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Set in post-Civil-War Texas, this tells the story of Captain Kidd, a newsman who has been asked to take young Joanna back to her family in San Antonio. Joanna had been kidnapped by the Kiowa and held captive for four years. Joanna has now been rescued, but she doesn't speak English and doesn't trust Captain Kidd. The story unfolds as the unlikely duo faces various hardships as they head south -- and what happens when they finally meet up with the girl's family.

     Harmony, by Carolyn Parkhurst. Tilly Hammond is a girl on the autism spectrum, providing a daunting challenge to her family in Washington, DC. When Tilly is thrown out of school, the Hammonds join a commune run by Scott Bean, a man with seemingly magical powers to help troubled children. The story is told in alternating chapters: by little sister Iris when they're in the commune, and by mother Alexandria when they're still in Washington, trying to decide what to do with Tilly and whether to put themselves in the hands of Scott Bean. We all know to what lengths parents will go to help their children; and we also know that some promises are too good to be true.

     The Trespasser by Tana French. I admit to being a Tana French fan; I've read all five of her previous detective stories set in present-day Ireland. This latest one involves hard-bitten detective Antoinette Conway as she tracks down the killer of a young Dublin girl, even as she fights off harassment from her fellow Murder Squad detectives.

     P. S. You can go to amazon and still get a copy of You Only Retire Once, which if it doesn't help you live longer, will, as Jeremy Kisner of Surevest Wealth Management says, "offer consistently good reading -- like a conversation with an insightful friend."


DJan said...

Thanks for the titles, Tom. I went over to the library website and put them all on hold. Tana's is the longest wait: I am number 44 in line! :-)

Barbara said...

I love Tana French. I'm going to reserve it at the library now.

Stephen Hayes said...

I do a lot of reading but mostly non fiction online. I need to make more time to read novels.

Denise said...

I should live forever! :-)

Terra Hangen said...

Wow, I read much more than 3 1/2 hours a week, always have. Not only is it fun and great entertainment and with nonfiction I learn stuff, but now you share it adds years to our life. Good news all around.

Anonymous said...

I read a minimum of 3 hours a day!!!
I should be living forever.
I start at 9am and sometimes stop reading by noon time.
Love to read.
Especially current events.
I dislike fiction.
I only want the truth! LOL!

still the lucky few said...

I love to read fiction, so this is good news for me! My next question is, what great mind decided to do research finding a correlation between reading and longevity? I'm always interested in what prompts people to do research!

Tom Sightings said...

Well, Cindi, some people think there's more truth in fiction than in non-fiction, esp. these days (as perhaps you suggest?)when everyone has a predetermined agenda. I don't know what prompts people to do research ... natural curiosity, perhaps? I read today about researchers studying how to get dogs to lie still in an MRI machine. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

I've read two works of fiction (books) in the past two days. I developed the habit of reading biography, fiction and nonfition in grade school. Mom took us to the library every week. I loved it then aand love it now. Books rock!

PS Science books, especially paleoanthropology and books on flora (gardens) and fauna (dogs) are great.

Rian said...

Well, I love to read! And although I will read 'almost' anything, fiction is my favorite. And since I definitely read at least 2-3 hours daily, I should live a long time 'according to the research'. And I do read real books, not e-books on my iPhone so I'm not likely to walk in front of a bus...

*Science, historical fiction, and mystery lead my list*

Janette said...

My husband reads books daily for several hours. His Amazon Kindle account proves it.
I read for several hours on line daily- blogs, newspapers, medical stuff. Wonder if my blood pressure when reading some of it makes it not as useful to my health :). Books? Historical fiction, certain classics and then a thrill every once in a while are my keys to a relaxing day. I am not able to read for short spurts. Airplane rides are my favorite "hole" to read in. I have a library in my house--and it isn't going anywhere.

Jono said...

Can't stay. Gotta get back to my book!

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! Yes to reading! I can't imagine life without books and I'll bet you think the same way. Glad to hear that it is now scientifically acknowledged. Keep writing and keep reading! ~Kathy