“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero
Bookworms, take heart! Not only is there evidence that reading books makes people more empathetic and mentally agile, but recent research published in “Social Science and Health” has found a significant link between reading books and living longer. About 23 months longer, in fact.*
Here’s the scoop: Yale University health researchers studied data gathered between 1992 and 2012 from Americans 50 years old and over. When controlled for age, sex, race, level of education, wealth, marital status, and depression, books emerged as a key factor determining lifespan. It’s worth noting here that magazines and newspapers did not produce the same result.
After 12 years of follow-up study, researchers found that people who read books were 20 percent less likely to die than poor benighted, non-reading schlubs. As noted above, readers lived about two years longer.
What’s at work here? The study’s leader Avri Bavishi speculates that the inherently challenging nature of books — their absorbing narratives, complex characters, and sustained length — all contribute to people’s ability to develop enhanced cognitive skills, such as recalling information.
It is these cognitive abilities, boosted by book reading, that show a positive correlation with increased lifespan. That’s correlation — not direct causation — but hey, all this is still good news for scriveners.
OK, reading makes you more empathetic. And sharper. It provides role models. It satisfies the need for mythic heroes and heroines. It improves the ability to puzzle out complex relationships. It helps you visualize. It ignites your imagination.
What more do we need to convince us that words matter, writing matters, writers matter? So energized and emboldened, let’s all write on!
* This good news comes to us by way of the snappy site Intellectual Takeout, which my book-loving brother Peter introduced me to. Thanks, Pete!