If you're over 50, reading books has extraordinary benefits when it comes to longevity.
People who read books live longer
That’s according to Yale researchers who studied 3,635 people older than 50 and found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Apparently, the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.
None of these things are surprising to me, an avid lifelong reader … except the fact that all this cognitive and emotional engagement actually lengthens our lifespan. But it makes sense — after all, reading is a thing you do every day, and that kind of intellectual and emotional stimulation is bound to have a positive cumulative effect.
Then I started actually thinking about my reading habits, and I realized that recently they’ve been … not so great. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot — like, an infinite amount — about exercise science and human anatomy and physiology while studying for my CPT. I’ve read interesting articles people have sent me, and I’ve dutifully read my friends’ Facebook status updates. But as far as voluntary, extra reading … not so much.
This is surprising and sad for me, because reading is something I love. It’s always been an effortless and enjoyable part of my day, whether I’m reading a new sci-fi novel or a pop psychology best-seller. But lately I’ve let that habit fall by the wayside, and I now that I’m aware of it I can tell that I’ve been feeling a subtle but pervasive sense of loss. I miss reading fiction. I don’t really miss the pop psych though — and I definitely don’t miss the exercise science (though this is almost certainly a burnout effect).
I’m sure there are many reasons for that, but one might be that according to Inc., reading fiction helps people stay open minded by decreasing our need for “cognitive closure.” Basically, we learn to accept not having all the answers and being comfortable in a state of seeking.
In my experience, being comfortable with not having all the answers is an essential skill for parents. It’s also an essential skill for everyone who wants to live a free, fulfilling life. Needing to have all the answers to everything can trap us in a rigidity that might prevent us from meeting new people, experiencing new ideas, and trying new things. And who wants to live a life like that?
Not me! I’m going to do everything I can to keep myself open minded, starting by picking up a new fiction book today. If reading is going to give me more years in which to live, I’m going to make sure I’m able to enjoy those years as fully as possible!
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?